Debate code enforcement, but know the facts

Like most folks living in Marietta I have watched the dispute concerning code enforcement from a distance hoping the parties might find some way to compromise or at least stop the name calling. However in his letter to the editor published March 25, a letter writer criticized a project my partner, Dick Boulton, and I are involved with so I feel the need to clarify a matter of importance to us. In an attempt to criticize Roger Kalter, the letter writer referred to the building of cold frames using old windows that contained lead paint. Almost nothing in his letter was accurate. The windows he mentioned were donated by Harry Houser. Just prior to Houser’s untimely death from cancer several months ago, I promised to fulfill his wish that the windows be used to build cold frames and to encourage gardening. Kalter organized the project. Boulton, a skilled carpenter, supervised and he informed every participant that the paint on the windows did indeed contain lead. He gave specific instructions on how to seal the windows to protect the plants from contamination. I might add that all of us, including Kalter, donated our time and materials. Thanks to them, the project was a total success. Six cold frames, 11 garden tables, and numerous new gardens became part of our community, and over 70 folks participated. Houser would be pleased. I hope this corrects the incomplete information included in the letter writer’s letter.

I would like to comment on some other information mentioned in the letter that I also believe to be incomplete. His letter suggests that the 160 complaints Kalter has forwarded to the health department over the last two years originated with him. In fact, they originated with concerned citizens like me. I’m personally responsible for one of those complaints. Boulton and I spend time nearly every day picking up broken beer bottles from the sidewalk in front of our place of business. Our greatest concern is that children living in our neighborhood might be injured. We informed Kalter of the matter because he’s our neighborhood representative on City Council. He then forwarded the complaint to the proper authorities. Of course I wish those who are breaking the bottles would better govern themselves but since that seemed unlikely we involved our government officials.

All this reminds me of why I love living here. Once in while I go down to Front Street to watch the tourists admire our historical buildings because I too often take those buildings for granted. I can see a hint of envy on their faces because they have to go back to big cities where only the privileged can stop their city council representative on the street, or write a note, make a call, or send an e-mail. Perhaps our concerns are not of global importance. We simply want a broken side walk fixed, or an old abandoned building rendered safe, or trash removed. We like knowing our mayor by name and meeting our city officials in the grocery line. But Marietta is not perfect because we are not perfect. There is always room for improvement and over 100 small towns in Ohio have implemented code enforcement legislation to do just that.

Four of our council members voted for the legislation in question; three voted against it and our mayor vetoed it. Obviously there is more than one side to this matter and the public needs and deserves good information so the entire community can be involved.

Therefore, it would be productive to carry on healthy public debate on this matter. Most of us living here agree with Thomas Jefferson that good government is less government but some government is required because we don’t always govern ourselves well without some help.

Jim Couts lives in Marietta.