Let’s Play ProActive Enforcement!

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We all know that “code violations erode property values, decrease the quality of life, and deteriorate neighborhoods”.  Hey, I am not making this up – I learned this in a personalized letter from the City of Farmers Branch.

I know what you’re thinking: “why are you getting personal notes from the City?  You must be one of The Chosen Citizens.” Ach, No!! Here’s the great news – anyone can get a personal letter from Jim, Rose Ann, Wes, Gabe, and/or Tim. They belong to an elite team known as Farmers Branch Code Enforcement. When you see them in your neighborhood blow them kisses, because without their eternal vigilance Farmers Branch would be rife with Crime and Blight; Our Quality of Life would be nil; our Property Values would be in the tank; Rats, Rodents and other Vermin would take over our firewood stacks; and no one would like us. To paraphrase our esteemed Mayor: “Farmers Branch would be Oak Cliff”.

Oh My.

I know what you’re thinking:  “How can I be ProActive and help The Team?”

The Game:

First of all, you need to be able to read and understand The Code as The Enforcers do. The Code is difficult to find from the city web site. The Code is difficult to read once you’ve found it. The Code is darned-near impossible to interpret anyway. But there’s hope for us all. Here’s the deal: the city council wants you to abide by Codes and Ordinances, but realize that most citizens are unaware of all the ways the Codes and Ordinances can be violated. As The Code is so difficult to locate, read, and interpret someone devised a very clever game to educate the citizens.  It’s like the game “I Spy” but with challenging pitfalls, traps, puzzles, and opportunities to go on to Bonus and Advanced Levels. To top it off, The Game is played on an individual and personal level so we all get one-on-one training! Okay, sometimes it’s two-on-one, or even three-on-one, but that’s in the Advanced levels and will be discussed later.

Participation is By Invitation Only, which the city calls a “Correction Notice”. But don’t fret: at some point in your life in Farmers Branch you will be invited to play. Here’s how it goes:

The Enforcers (you know who they are – they drive around in little white trucks that say “Farmers Branch Community Service” on the side) will see something in your yard that might disturb someone. Sometimes the trucks are hard to spot because they might be parked behind bushes so that The Enforcer can get out and walk through your easement or neighbor’s yard, camera in hand, to see if you’re hiding contraband in the back yard or other places that s(he) can’t see from the street. But most often they’ll sit right in front of your house for a long time. Right out in the open. For a long time.

The neat thing is that a couple of days after The Enforcer has been there you’ll get a nice personal letter in the mail telling about the visit. In the letter they’ll let you know that they have counted the decorative items in your front yard and found more than five … Or they might tell you that they spied prohibited items stored outdoors …  Or high grass and weeds exceeding eight inches in height … Or, gosh, any of hundreds of observations.

Now isn’t this entertaining? The city is trying to connect with you by inviting you into a game of “I Spy”. To add to the fun they’ll give you a date by which you have to find the item(s). And they’ll give you little hints on what the item(s) could be. They won’t come out and tell you right away, because that would spoil the fun. They will give you a few hints, so don’t worry.

For instance, say The Enforcers pick you to play. If you see an Enforcer sitting in front of your home you’ll know you’ve been selected, and you will impatiently wait by your mailbox for your invitation and hints. (If they visit but you don’t spot them you miss out on the 2 days of giddy anticipation, but don’t give up, you still get to play.)

How to get an Invitation for Yourself and/or Others:

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If you are enjoying the game and want to invite a neighbor to play all you have to do is “Register a Complaint”. The city thoughtfully supplies many, many suggestions for complaints, and they make it very easy to do so (refer to my post titled “Code Violation Complaints“).  Jim Olk tells us that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to play, so you shouldn’t have to spend much time finding a suitable complaint.

According to the Website “anyone can register a complaint by walking into City Hall and speaking with a representative from the Code Enforcement Department”. This seems a little biased against people with disabilities, but I’m just quoting from the site – I didn’t write that statement.

Note: Many citizens have found that it is not necessary for a complaint to be filed in order to snag an invitation. Often the city just picks your home and takes the initiative because they are being ProActive. I don’t know how they choose your home – I guess it’s random, like winning the lottery or getting a jury summons, but with much greater frequency. Or maybe you played before and you were so much fun that The Enforcers want you to play again. I just don’t know for sure. I do know many people who have gotten to play numerous times, and each time the game gets more and more advanced.

Object of The Game:

Figure out what The Enforcers spied and fix it to their satisfaction prior to the deadline in order to earn an “Abatement”.  

How to Play:

Okay – so you’ve received your Correction Notice: uh; Invitation to play. First of all, they’ll briefly explain the game:

“Dear <Lucky Participant>

The Farmers Branch Mayor and City Council …. blah blah blah” . (You don’t have to read that part because you already know it.)

Now comes the good part: “I Spy Something  <excessive, prohibited, etc.>”! Except they word it like this:

Violation: <something excessive, prohibited, etc.>

The Enforcers give you your first hint by referencing which section of The Code to consult for more hints, and will also provide a broader, but no less vague, description of the subject.

Fun, fun, fun.

Now it’s up to you to figure out what they’ve spied.

Definitions:

  1. The Code: Is the City of Farmers Branch Code of Ordinances.
  2. The Enforcer: is the City of Farmers Branch Code Enforcement Officer. S(he) works for the Community Service Department of the City of Farmers Branch. I think that to be more descriptive that department should be called Community Surveillance, not Service, but that’s just me.
  3. Correction Notice: The Enforcer’s invitation to join the game
  4. Violation: 1st Hint of what The Enforcer has spied on your property
  5. Abatement: from the verb “abate” which means to suppress or end a nuisance, act, or writ, or be suppressed or ended

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Bonus Round:

If you really enjoy this game there are several ways you can enter the Bonus Rounds.

1.  To make this even more exciting they invite you to call your own personal enforcement officer if you are stumped. If you don’t have much time to play and do not want to play to Advanced Game I warn against using the “Call The Enforcer” lifeline, because when you do that you have essentially invited him/her onto your property in order to spy more items. And S(he) will.

If you really enjoy this game by all means call them.

2.  Here’s a little known cheat which you should also not use unless you want to go on to the Bonus Round: you can email The Enforcers and ask for more hints. He/she will offer to come by and walk with you to explain. Again – do not use this lifeline unless you want to go on to the Bonus Round.

3.  When The Enforcer is sitting in front of your home he/she is not merely gazing in rapt admiration at your landscaping. Oh no –   (s)he is taking pictures. Now, once you are made aware of this you will be tempted to ask to see them.

WRONGIO:  – doing that will immediately propel you into the Super Secret Bonus Round, whereupon The Special Enforcer will grab his camera and run out to your home. He will park his truck behind bushes closer to your neighbor’s yard than yours in an attempt to throw you off. Then he’ll jump out, camera in hand, and walk around taking photographs of anything and everything that he can find.

In a Nutshell, if you question The Enforcer you’ll most assuredly be invited to play multiple Bonus Rounds, and even as fun as this game is, you do have a life, right?

Oh – and if you do use a Lifeline and Call the Enforcer, be sure to get everything s(he) says in writing, because sometimes they forget.

Advanced Level

I’ll be playing the advanced level soon, and I’ll let you know how that is played as soon as I find out.

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