It’s clear that there are code enforcement issues in Commerce. There are dozens of properties and houses that violate city codes. It’s up to the city to enforce those codes.
A recent ordinance will make it easier to do so as will accepting the updated international codes with the North Central Texas Council of Governments Amendments. Before, property owners who faced fines or tax liens for code violations were able to sell their property, and the process of enforcing those violations began all over again.
Now those properties cannot be sold unless the new owners take on the responsibility of bringing the property up to code.
If enforcing codes is a matter of manpower or taking an individual to court, then the city needs to allocate more resources toward this issue. We know the budget is tight with Covidien leaving, but the only way this city will grow (and thus the tax base) is if Commerce attracts more industry and more residents. We would be willing to bet that Commerce citizens would even stomach a tax increase to make sure these codes are enforced.
People and businesses don’t want to move to a city with buildings that are about to fall down, yards full of trash and yards that need to be mowed. Any resources invested in code enforcement is money the city will reap when Commerce is able to attract more full-time residents and businesses.
There is no better place to start than the house on Caddo Street that we featured on the front page of the Journal last week. Considering its history as the house Michael “Pee Wee” Walker was photographing when he was murdered by Adam Ward, enforcing the codes on that house will serve as both a way to honor Walker’s memory and demonstrate that the city will not be intimidated into ignoring blatant code violations. The fact that, after eight years, the house is still not up to code, is a travesty that should bring shame to our city government, staff and local residents.
Additionally, the city has to make sure that all of the properties it owns are up to code. The city can hardly expect Commerce homeowners and businesses to pay to bring their buildings up to code if Commerce isn’t willing to do the same thing.
As for the property owners in Commerce: you have a responsibility to the other residents of this town to bring your property up to code. If you’re not willing to spend the resources to do so, then sell it to someone who is.
It is time for the city staff to begin enforcing codes and the city residents to hold them accountable. Commerce will not grow if these eyesores remain.
This editorial is the opinion of the Commerce Journal editorial board. The board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.