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 As many of you doubtless know, I have become so insulted by the antics of our reigning city council that I decided that the only way to stop the insanity was to ….. become ONE OF THEM! Yikes – how low I have fallen.

But desperate times call for desperate measures.

No – I am not going to sit around and think of Innovative and ProActive ways to torture our already tortured citizenry. (Is that a word? – I hope Anonymous contacts and corrects me if I’m wrong. I am always open to constructive criticism.)

Anyway – I just got back from another trip to New Braunfels, and I saw so much that would be Verboten in Farmers Branch that I just had to talk about it: grassy cracks, peeling paint, unpainted <gasp> storage buildings, accessory buildings that were not architecturally compatible with the main building. Oh My. I just don’t know how that town can grow at all, what with all the partying, and decay, and blight. That is not upscale and desireable – Is It?

And it was all so lovely, and peaceful, and if it weren’t for all the tourists and gawkers and visitors spending money and clogging up the quaint shops and parks I could have walked around a lot more. But I digress, what I want to tell you about is my brother’s Market Street House.

My brother, Mike, and his wife live in Houston, but visit New Braunfels often. On one visit they found a lovely little house close to Landa Park (the place where New Braunfels holds its annual Wurstfest – beer drinking, German bands, sausage eating, and standing room only). Anyway, the house had been neglected, and Mike, being my brother, loves a DIY challenge. So he and his wife purchased the home and got to work renovating it. They plan to rent it out during the many many popular events that are held in Landa Park and surrounding areas all year around. The events that draw people from all over the world. Even Harley-Davidson owners, who are really very nice people in spite of the “Hell’s Angels” image from the ’50’s.

http://www.thosefunnypictures.com/resize.php?file=pictures/6875/Funny_Pictures_6875.jpg

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Snooooooze”. So I will get to the point.

The next door neighbors have a yard that the Farmers Branch Code Enforcement squad could spend days investigating. I’ll bet they could get every single one of their 8000+ violation notices written in that one yard. But I love looking at all the stuff there – the little plastic flowers, the interesting  but empty flower pots, the strings of lights, the whimsical little statues scattered around, the non-permitted (in the Branch) outdoor furniture, the wind chimes. I’ll bet there’s even a newspaper in the street in front of their house.  Oh my – how fun. The barking dogs sometimes bother me – but once they get used to your presence they find other things to occupy their little minds.

The yard is fun and amusing, but the best thing about these neighbors is that they watch my brother’s property like hawks. As my brother and wife live in Houston, they can only work on the house every other week. So it sits empty a lot. But those neighbors have Mike’s phone number and they call any time they see anyone there. I know – sometimes when I visit New Braunfels I stay in my brother’s house, and even though Mike tells them that I will be there they come and check me out anyway, then call him and verify. I don’t mind – I think that’s great – that is what caring neighbors do:  watch each other’s backs. Take care of each other. Help each other.

So – does Mike have his nose out of joint because  their yard is, uh, busy? Does he worry about his property value diminishing because they have more than 5 decorative items in their front yard? Heck no. He knows that nothing bad will happen to his property on their watch. And he can still rent his little house out for a tidy sum.  And, junk aficionado as I am, I love to gaze over there.  It makes me think that they are lively, vibrant people with personality. It makes me smile.

I know that other people feel this way, as a reader sent this poem. He suggested that you listen to the Garrison Keillor reading, and I imagine that would be great. But I have a lively imagination, so I’ll pretend that Mr. Keillor is reading this.

Plastic Beatitude

by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

<!– (from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf) –>

Our neighbors, the Pazzotis, live in a long
narrow canary-yellow house with Mrs. Pazzotti’s old
father, their 2 daughters, their husbands, 4 kids,
a tortoise-shell cat and a white poodle.
Their yard is my childhood dream: toys,
bicycles, tubs, bird cages, barbeques, planters, pails, tools
and garden sculptures: an orange squirrel eating a nut,
Mickey Mouse pushing a wheelbarrow, St. Joseph
carrying a lantern, his other blessing hand
broken at the wrist, and two tea-sipping toads
in an S-shaped love seat, smiling at each other
under a polka-dotted parasol.
On the yellow railing around the deck,
a procession of nine pinwheels. This May morning,
they thrash the air with each breeze like clumsy
angels nailed to their posts. On the garage wall
at the end of the yard an electric cord
shoots up to the roof. One half connects to a blue
neon insect electrocuter, the other half snakes to, then
disappears into a pedestal cemented on the cornice.
And there she stands, in plastic
beatitude—and six feet of it—the Madonna,
in her white robe and blue cape, arms
outstretched, blessing the Pazottis, their yard
and neighbors, lit from within day and night,
calling God’s little insects to her shining light,
before sending them straight to the zapper—tiny buzzing heretics
fried by the same power that lured them
to their last temptation.

“Plastic Beatitude” by Laure-Anne Bosselaar, from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. © BOA Editions, Ltd, 1997. Reprinted with permission.

Let’s face it, we are living in hard economic times right now. Yet, in spite of this, The City in the Park is determined to make us look Pretty and Upscale and, well, Park-Like. That takes a lot of money, and with the lawsuits and new signs and new logo and buying real estate for inflated prices they are just scraping by, and going through our savings at an alarming rate. But how are we going to become Upscale and Desirable if we don’t do all these things?

They need our help. They need ideas on how we can save money. They’ve already:

  • fired employees
  • reduced city services
  • increased taxes
  •  increased revenue from traffic and code violations
  •  … what can they do next?

I know that the City Council is delighted with Code Enforcement, and their “attention to detail” and would like to hire 2 more Enforcers. Just think – if 4 people can write 8000 notices in a year, 6 people could write at least 12000. WOW – how Upscale and Desirable is that.

Of course I have an idea. Instead of hiring more Code Enforcers, we should appoint Block Leaders, like they used to have in Germany. They could take care of all of the attention to detail and report to a central unit who could go after the violators. Just think – we could use all the CE trucks for other things, we could have fewer employees, and the block leader would be someone who knows the area and can find all the hidden violations. It was very successful in Germany in the 1940’s. Here’s a description, with slight adjustments to fit our situation:

In Nazi Germany, a Blockleiter (block leader) was responsible for the supervision of a neighborhood or city block and formed the link between the government and the general population. Also colloquially known as a Blockwart (block attendant or warden), he was charged with planning, spreading propaganda communications and developing an acceptance to the policies of the government  City Code of Ordinances among the households (typically 40 to 60) in his area.

It was also the duty of the Blockleiter to spy on the population and report any anti-government activities code violations to the local office. This was helped by keeping files on each household (Haushaltskarten).  Other duties included allocating beds in homes for visiting NSDAP demonstrators counting decorative items in Front Yards, the collection of subscriptions and charitable donations especially for Winterhilfe for the legal defense fund, and organising the clearing of rubble after air-raids making sure no one put their trash out too early.

It is thought that there were nearly half a million Blockleiter. The Blockleiter was appointed to keep an eye upon the activities and political attitudes of the families under his control and to keep a card index system, containing Haushaltskarten, providing detailed information about them. Regular reports were sent from the Blockleiter to the Zellenleiter Code Enforcement Office who in turn reported to his Ortsgruppenleiter Municipal Court and so on up through the chain of political leadership. Any unrest was dealt with swiftly and at source. Small wonder therefore that the Party City Council found it necessary to state on repeated occasions that the Blockleiter was not employed as a Party spy.  doing a great job in beautifying the city, and to be applauded for their Innovative and ProActive Service and Attention to Detail.

Well – there is a downside, but not for the government:

 

 Due to such activities, Blockwarts were particularly disliked by the general population. Today, Blockwart is a colloquial German insult word for a person who feels the motivation to keep people in line, esp. by reporting them to officials or pressing the enforcing of rules (esp. petty rules) upon people. 

Wouldn’t our Sister City of Garbsen, Germany and our  Friendship City of Schonebeck, Germany be proud of our ProActive and Innovation Code Enforcement?

Or maybe we should ask them how that worked out for them, and what they have learned from the experience, and what they would NOT repeat, no matter how Patriotic, or Innovative, or ProActive, or Desirable someone told them it is.

If you read the latest comment on the Twitterpated Tuesdays – Accessorizing in the Branch post, you will see that the young woman who was cited for her canvas gazebo was given a stay of execution. To jog your memory, she put up the following structure in her back yard in order to afford some relief from the elements while she was relaxing in her hammock. In her back yard. Away from public scrutiny.

No, that’s not her back yard, but that doesn’t make the gazebo any less nice. Maybe The City will build a nice park like that behind her home. That would be neat and awesome, and would help us support our “brand”. No – not the brand about being racist and ignorant. I’m talking about the one we are spending hundreds of thousand of dollars (per park) on:  “The City in the Park” brand that we changed our logo for and all that.

Anyway, Community Surveillance spotted this accessory structure, determined it was detrimental to society’s Health, Safety, and Welfare, and notified her that  canvas-topped structures are NOT ALLOWED in The City in the Park. She took this matter to the next City Council meeting and the council members asked Jim Olk to explain the violation to her.

His explanation contained three elements:

  1. Canvas topped structures deteriorate, and hers will too some day, and Code Enforcement just couldn’t be babysitting her yard so that they could cite her as soon as it did. Also, if she had one everyone would want one and then Code Enforcement would have to watch them all and …… Whew! ……. that’s a lot of work for just 4 people.
  2. Her gazebo is an accessory building, and we all know that if you construct an accessory building in The City in the Park it has to be “architecturally compatible” with the house. In other words, if her house was 75% brick, and the rest was painted orange, the gazebo must follow suit. For that is pretty, and nothing else will do.
  3. It was “probably” a 12×12 ft. square building, and that would make it over the 120 square feet size allowed for accessory buildings.

Ooookkkkkkaaaayyyy.

Well, as a result of her inquiry, Code Enforcement, in a rare display of Community Service, went out and measured her gazebo. They found it to be a 10×10 structure, which turns out to be 100 square feet, so she was, in fact, under the maximum limit for reason #3. So she was told that she would, in fact, be allowed to keep her gazebo: canvas top and all.

Now, I’m happy for her, and I sure don’t want to mess up her situation, but …………

I’m going to assume her home is not made of canvas and metal, so what about the precious “architectural compatibility”? Don’t get me wrong – I think that’s an incredibly moronic ordinance, but it is the ordinance.

Does canvas not deteriorate if it is under a certain size? If so, they need to quit citing people for having canvas-upholstered outdoor furniture, because I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that no one has a chair that is larger than 100 square feet in area.

And that is the point of my frequent posts lambasting The Code, and our ridiculous, oppressive, attention-to-detail Code Enforcement blitz.

Note to Anonymous: Please proofread: I am not an English major, so there may be some errors in sentence construction. But that doesn’t change the facts. Thanks

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