America the Messy Yard Police State

Roland Hill, Peoria messy yard snitch

  One of the reasons the "messy yard laws" are unconstitutional is that they are selectively enforced. Roland Hill, a Peoria messy yard snitch, is a good example of this.

If the messy yard police enforced the messy yard laws like Peoria snitch Roland Hill wants them to the government of Peoria would have anything to do other then hunt down messy yard criminals.


Peoria tipster acts as a blight watchdog

by Sonu Munshi - Jun. 26, 2011 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

It's still dark outside at 4 a.m. The lights are out at most homes, but one resident of a Peoria neighborhood is wide awake.

Roland Hill heads out for his daily 90-minute walk past quarter-century-old Arizona ranches.

The northwest Valley man walks with a purpose: to identify what he considers code violations, if not outright blight.

The 76-year-old can't help but notice the trailer illegally parked outside one house and the waist-high weeds at another, or the commercial truck parked on a residential street.

Such infractions make Hill mad.

He often carries a voice recorder to note violations, but for some repeat offenders, memory is enough.

He points to a recreational vehicle parked in a front yard instead of behind a 6-foot wall. Again.

"Seriously, why should they allow this to go on?" he asks, a New York accent lingering.

The slightly stooped senior makes his way home, where he eventually will type up his observations. He sends near-weekly faxes to city code enforcers. Disillusionment at the impression that he's being ignored has dampened his frequency. [Sounds like the messy yard could would like to be a lot more selective in their enforcement of Peoria's messy yard laws but messy yard snitch Roland Hill won't let them]

But he's continued for five years.

His wife, Sue, acknowledges that her husband's complaints border on obsessive, but she says someone's got to do something to maintain home values and instill a sense of pride and security in the neighborhood.

Most cities, to varying degrees, have a Roland Hill. Many code-enforcement systems count on tips by phone or online.

Half of Peoria's code-enforcement cases are prompted by such tips. It's led to a debate in the city as officials wrestle with whether to be more proactive or continue to heavily rely on tips. A clear proactive plan could lead to fewer complaints about uneven enforcement. [ What rubbish. The laws are selectively enforced because most messy yard tickets are a result of complaints from messy yard do gooders like Roland Hill ]

Hill welcomes proactive enforcement, as long as the rules are firmly enforced.

His mission as amateur code officer began shortly after retirement as he had more time to take a closer look around his neighborhood.

The retired truck driver said he used to pay $75 a month to park his truck about 10 miles from home. He said he could have parked it overnight at an empty lot near his house, but it would've been a violation and an eyesore. [ Hmmm ... Looks like Roland Hill has been a victim of selective enforcement of messy yard laws! ]

As Hill sips coffee after his walk, he looks out the kitchen window to a kempt lawn, where he trims his trees every two weeks when the leaves fall.

He talks about what keeps him sending faxes, often providing not just a mention of the problem but also a citation of the specific city ordinance being violated. He knows ordinance numbers by heart.

He and his wife say the neighborhood has deteriorated because of lax enforcement as greater attention is placed on newer parts of the growing city.

"I know we don't live in Scottsdale or north Peoria where everything is pristine and lovely, but that doesn't mean we have to put up with the blight that goes on here," Sue said.

Hill and city code enforcement don't always see things the same. In some cases, he doesn't understand why it takes so long to fix problems or why they keep occurring. Other times, officials tell him the complaints are unfounded or a misinterpretation of the law.

He doesn't buy it.

Peoria's code-enforcement head maintains they take Hill's tips seriously. Jay Davies, who oversees Peoria's six-member code unit, said a majority of Hill's complaints are valid. Davies said the department often is already looking into matters, but it can take time to locate owners, issue warnings and follow up.

In general, residents' expectations of quick results are too high, Davies said.

Of Hill, he said, "Sometimes he's our best friend, and other times he drags us right under the bus."

Still, Davies said he always encourages people to call in violations with accurate information. At least until this fall, when the city expects to further discuss whether to continue relying heavily on tips or begin more-proactive enforcement.

Most cities are like Peoria in that they have a mix of each.

Mesa and Chandler act mainly on complaints, while Glendale is more proactive. Chandler estimates about 70 percent of its cases are tip-driven. Glendale is just the opposite, with about 70 percent of cases identified by code-enforcement officers.

Proactive enforcement has, in part, become more difficult in tight times. The number of code-enforcement officers in Mesa fell from 18 to seven during the recession, said Steve Hether, who oversees Mesa's code unit.

Beyond the practical is the philosophical, the deeply held views on both sides about property upkeep.

"It's a delicate dance," said Rick Brzuchalski, Chandler's code-enforcement manager.

No matter how it's approached, code enforcement is likely to make someone unhappy. Some feel rules and enforcement are too hard-line. Others, like Hill, say they're not enough.

Hill said some might call him petty. "To that I say, 'It's for the good of the entire neighborhood.' "


Code activist gets Peoria leaders' attention

by Sonu Munshi - Jul. 22, 2011 09:45 AM

The Arizona Republic

To call Roland Hill persistent is an understatement. The 76-year-old Peoria resident sends faxes nearly every week to the city on code infractions he sees on his daily early-morning walks.

Hill's longstanding gripe about his deteriorating neighborhood earned him a meeting Monday with his councilwoman, Joan Evans, Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter Jr. and the code enforcement staff. The Police Department oversees code enforcement.

The outcome? "Not particularly positive or negative," says Hill, who walked into the meeting armed with photos of trucks allegedly parked illegally in residential streets.

"The message I got was they don't like me, they don't like the idea that I'm being aggressive toward them and complaining that they haven't been helpful in the past to address those issues," Hill said, after the meeting.

Evans said she plans to take up one issue Hill raised about whether the city was unevenly applying a city ordinance not allowing commercial trucks to park in residential neighborhoods.

Hill believes there's one intersection where it goes on illegally. The City Attorney's Office believes otherwise.

She also will see whether non-working streetlights can be replaced more promptly.

But Evans also urged Hill and others who feel code enforcement takes too long to show patience and understand that the city has limited resources.

Jay Davies, who oversees the city's code enforcement staff, said Hill has made it clear that he would like city officials to enforce code instead of educate residents.

But Davies said as a matter of policy, they go the education route.

"We use enforcement when necessary but our philosophy is that education is a reasonable approach," Davies said.

Since the new police chief came onboard, the department has made one change.

The language on the door hanger that code enforcement staff leaves for a violation has been tweaked to say "courtesy notice" instead of "code notice" in big bold letters. Davies said sometimes the notices were misinterpreted.

"We want to let residents know it's just a courtesy notice, that we've observed or gotten a complaint about, and to please address that," Davies said.

He said the police chief's intent is to see that the city is being fair and is working with the community.

Davies said for as many residents who agree with Hill's hard-hitting approach, there are just as many who say residents should be given time to take care of a violation.

"There are those who say they are unemployed or handicapped or have higher priorities - every situation has its nuances," Davies said.

He knows it's never going to be a win-win.

"Do we please everybody in every instance? I'm sure we don't," Davies added. "But we do strive to provide the best service possible."


America the Messy Yard Police State