Several years ago Duluth City Councilors added another ‘good neighbor’ ordinance to those already in existence. It says, in general, that as city residents, you are required to maintain your property consistent with the neighborhood. If you do not the city will come in, fix the problem, and recover their costs on your property taxes. In practice, this means, for example, if you don’t cut your grass during the summer and your neighbors complain, the city will cut the grass then bill you at city employee rates. Such ordinances are generally difficult to enforce. But the threat does cause the majority of citizens to voluntarily comply.
The concept is not new. Cities have been mandating ‘good neighbor’ policies for decades. That was the premise behind “Land Use” ordinances long ago. These ordinances were designed to provide guidance to landowners so that when using one’s personal property they will not cause harm to their neighbor. Over the years the term ‘harm’ has been redefined to include harm to the community as well as individuals. For example, mandated snow removal in and around the business community. Businesses have a vested interest in keeping city sidewalks clean but individual property owners not so much. Thus, the city invokes the ‘Common good’ or ‘good neighbor’ concept.
So what happens when these ‘common good’ and ‘good neighbor’ policies are in conflict? Such is becoming the case as more and more Compassionate Society, Racial Disparities, and Social Justice organizations set up shop in the heart of or on the fringe of the business district.
In Duluth, CHUM and Center City Housing are perfect examples of this conflict. In nearly 50 years of existence, CHUM has developed an integrated, comprehensive operation that provides programs and services essential to caring for the most vulnerable within our community. Their 40 plus faith congregational organizations and thousands of individual contributors are providing an incredible service from which the community has been the beneficiary. The strength of CHUM’s operation is SERVICE.
As CHUM continues to expand services to more and more clients they seem to have forgotten that they are part of the business community instead of a community unto themselves. It appears that CHUM has lost sight of its impact on the surrounding community as CHUM clients disrupt both foot and automobile traffic, use alleys and sidewalks as a toilet and create untenable loitering areas around their service facility and the adjacent properties. They have become poor neighbors. And the problems have been well documented.
The question is how can this have happened? Does the City weigh the good versus the difficulties of an organization and act accordingly? Are there different standards for organizations like CHUM than for individuals and businesses when it comes to ‘good neighbor’ policies and ordinances? Maybe the city administration has not been informed. It would be sad to think city leaders are just looking the other way. Regardless, something needs to be done. Downtown businesses can’t afford to have a single customer walk away because they feel uncomfortable on our city streets ………especially today.
Traffic issues downtown during CHUM food distribution and recipients with their boxes eating at the corner of Lake and Superior.