- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The District has long kept tabs on vacant properties, blighted buildings and so-called nuisance properties. The city even went a step further and began using tax dollars to blast graffiti off other’s people’s property.

Now comes word from D.C. auditor Kathy Patterson that in recent years the city failed to enforce laws and regulations on the books to recoup at least $1 million on such zombie properties.

Don’t laugh. Every red cent the city hauls in in the name of law and order can probably be put to good use in the name of law and order.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) doesn’t quite see things that way, however.

Mrs. Patterson is scheduled to release the fine details of a new audit on Thursday, and there’s likely to be a bit of politics tossed about as well, which is OK. After all, Mrs. Patterson served as a D.C. Council member for many years in Ward 3 — an area as allergic to zombie property as its tony neighborhoods, including Georgetown and Cleveland Park, are to one-star motels.

For sure, Ward 3 serves as a perfect example for the nation’s local politicians who still don’t quite understand why Rudy Giuliani put the “broken glass” theory on a front burner when he was mayor of the Big Apple.

So what’s new with DCRA in the District?

M-O-N-E-Y. Yep. Money.

The District is raising fines 200 percent for DCRA, and the higher fines take effect on Oct. 1.

The increase in fines means if a property owner allows “a nuisance to exist on any lot or parcel of land in D.C. which affects the public health, comfort, safety, and welfare of citizens,” the cashier register — er, chip card — will cost $4,000 instead of $2,000.

The cost of other infractions will hit the $4,000 mark as well.

Want to add a second bathroom to the basement but have a permit for only one?

Ka-ching!

Plan to move your front door to another side of the house to capture the morning sun?

Ask DCRA first.

Yep, the good folks at DCRA can’t seem to follow the rules and regs they already have dominion over, yet the District shines its tarnished crown.

Don’t take it out on Mrs. Patterson and auditing gurus, though.

They are merely doing their job.

The folks who must be held accountable for the mashup are Mayor Muriel Bowser and the 13 lawmakers who make up the council.

The numbers and locations of the wards with the highest numbers of vacant and blighted properties paint a deplorable picture.

Among registered vacant properties, Wards 4 (53), 5 (77), 7 (126) and 8 (67) lead the pack of eight wards.

Also, in addition to the number of properties registered as blighted, the number of so-called “unregistered” blighted properties is quite revealing: Wards 1 (10), 5 (20), 6 (10), 7 (21) and 8 (33).

Keep in mind, DCRA itself provided all of those numbers.

So it appears that enumerating an issue is not DCRA’s chief problem.

The problem appears to be that DCRA has not been held to account.

Now that Mrs. Patterson has opened the door, the mayor and D.C. lawmakers must go through it.

I mean, it’s the politicians who keep screaming about the lack of affordable housing.

That’s an issue that’s debatable, since “affordable” means different strokes to different folks.

What’s not debatable, however, are the smoke and mirrors displayed in City Hall.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]


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