As residents will be voting on Tuesday, April 2, Maplewood Mayor Barry Greenberg points out how the city’s nuisance ordinance has been used for the good of the city in the past, and that it has recently been updated. He sent a statement to share on 40 South News.
It is nearing an election and there are topics being discussed that are of concern to Maplewood citizens. One of those topics is the city’s nuisance ordinance. I am attaching a link to the nuisance ordinance [Revised Nuisance Ordinance] with the original language, plus the deletions and additions which were negotiated with, and approved by the ACLU so that you know exactly what the ordinance states. These revisions were also reviewed and approved by the Maplewood City Council, because they protect our citizens from nuisances while maintaining their civil rights. Notice that the ordinance language in (17) c was changed to require more than two calls in a three-month period, not six months, before a complaint will be considered. This is a part of a process where residents accused of nuisance violations have an opportunity to plead their case, and where consideration for the potential revocation of occupancy permits is based on the specific facts of the complaint.
Since 2002 there were 19 instances where resident occupancy permits have been revoked due to incidents involving drug manufacturing, drug distribution and / or shootings, 19 actions taken for peace disturbance, and 19 actions taken for domestic disturbances, many times combined with a peace disturbance. It is important to note that in domestic disturbance cases, assailant occupancy permits are revoked.
In the well-publicized ACLU case, it was never reported in the paper both domestic and peace disturbance participants were deemed assailants based on physical evidence contained in the police reports and testimony at the hearing. The plaintiff in this case was also quoted as claiming that she wasn’t told that she could have legal representation. The certified letter from the city, that she signed for, clearly stated that she is welcome to be represented by legal counsel. It points out that when the public doesn’t have all the facts, they might draw some incorrect conclusions.
The lawsuit by Equal Housing Opportunity Council was dismissed in its entirety by the court with prejudice. The ACLU case was settled after the City agreed to modify the ordinance with the revisions that were adopted. These were the only two lawsuits, with no individual appeals, that have been filed against Maplewood regarding our ordinance involving 58 occupancy revocations, including 19 involving domestic disturbances. While the ordinance COULD be used to punish victims of domestic violence, it was not used in a discriminatory manner.
During the legal process, Maplewood staff and elected officials were appropriately advised against discussing the case or risking loss of insurance coverage. During that time, EHOC and ACLU used the opportunity to exploit the silence by holding public meetings and disseminating information that was in some cases misleading or untruthful. The best thing that came out of the process is that the nuisance ordinance has been updated. The City of Maplewood is also restricted from making changes for at least 5 years, without ACLU approval. This is an indication of how strongly they feel the revisions address previous issues.
As you go to the polls on Tuesday, keep in mind that you should make your decision on the facts and not necessarily what you might hear from candidates using the issue to promote their campaign. If you feel that after reading the revised ordinance that the elected officials have not done their job, feel free to vote them out of office. My experience in the last 16 years on Council is that myself and the elected officials I have served with have done their best to create a community where people feel safe and free from disturbance and the rights of our individual citizens have been preserved.