Essential Services: Pay as You Go?

FIRST THERE WAS the pay-for-police ordinance; now it's pay-for-inspections. Under a new St. Paul ordinance, property owners who log an "excessive" number of housing inspections (seven or more in a year) will be assessed a $200 fine.
The plan parallels another measure, passed by City Council a few months back, to charge landlords $1,000 once they've had five police calls (certain calls, such as those relating to domestic abuse, don't count) at one address.

District 5 Council member Janice Rettman, who championed both ordinances, says there are 172 properties that would qualify for the inspections fine right now; five of those have had more than 2,000 visits between them in two years. "[Inspectors] told us they have cases where someone says, 'Sure, the second time I get the notice I usually fix the problem,'" she says. "We need people to realize that they should take care of the problem rather than using the city as their enforcement service."

Asked whether the new laws head down a slippery slope, Rettman insists that "this is not a revenue generator, it's a corrective attention-getter." She says the pay-for-police ordinance has been "extremely successful" during its pilot phase, with property owners who got warnings immediately calling in to ask how they could cooperate. "It hasn't raised a single dime, and that's the way we want it," she says.

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