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Time To Put Bite Into Law On Blight

Helen Ubiñas

June 07, 2009

Last we heard from Denise Viera, she was claiming she resolved the now nearly $800 in fines and penalties she racked up neglecting her Broadview Terrace property.

You remember Denise, right?

She of the unmowed grass, the sad, sagging porch, the dangling gutter — and the floating home address.

The federal official with a job at a Washington agency in charge of strengthening neighborhoods who's damaging her own.

Well, someone's not being straight here.

The city tells me that money is still owed — and while the grass was coincidentally mowed after we started asking questions, the condition of her house remains a major concern to her neighbors.

But then, it's not as if Viera's alone. Turns out that of the more than 200 tickets issued by the health and human services and licensing and inspection departments since they rolled out a new system about two years ago, only 11 have actually been paid.

And as far as I can tell, there's little — if any — incentive to make anyone write a check.

In fact, deadbeats have piled up nearly $85,000 in uncollected fines and penalties. That's a lot of weeds and garbage around the city. Or put another way, a couple of employees the city may not have to cut.

The officials in charge are refreshingly honest about the problem.

"I'm not satisfied," said director of development David Panagore.

Good, no one should be. Now it's time to do something about it.

They've got some ideas. They're hoping to expand the new system to include other violations and departments. They're working with the council to enhance the city's anti-blight ordinance. And they're looking into turning over collections to another department.

But without enforcement, there's no deterrence. And until they aggressively collect these fines, they could pump up the ordinance all they want or write tickets all day long and it's not going to make a bit of difference. Bottom line: There's a Denise Viera because there can be a Denise Viera.

But this is about a lot more than one woman on one street in one neighborhood.

Hartford has forever struggled with cleaning up the eyesores and blighted buildings that can so easily bring a city down.

The first thing many people see when they come into Hartford is a decrepit hulk known as the Butt Ugly Building. It's coming down. It's getting fixed, we've been told. But there it stands, getting uglier by the day.

Hartford's very own beacon of blight.

And that's just the most visible example. Go down just about any street in Hartford and it doesn't take long before you find a neglected or abandoned property. Walk along Albany Avenue, Park Street or Main and dodge the litter.

We've grown so accustomed to the blight around us that it's as if we don't even see it any more — and the delinquent property owners know that.

It's time, Denise — and the rest of you delinquents: Clean up and pay up.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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