2017 Tulsa election: Proposition 1: Summary nuisance abatement

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The first of the seven charter change propositions on the City of Tulsa November 14, 2017, ballot has to do with abatement of nuisances, specifically with repeat offenders. A yes vote on Proposition No. 1 would modify Article I (Corporate Powers), Section 3 (General Grant of Power), Paragraph O. The mark-up below shows the how the text would change if Proposition No. 1 is approved, with added text underlined. If this proposition is approved, no text would be deleted.

SECTION 3. GENERAL GRANT OF POWER.

Subject only to such limitations imposed by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, by the Constitution and such laws of Oklahoma binding upon cities adopting charters for their own government under the authority granted by Article XVIII, section 3, of the Constitution of Oklahoma, and by the provisions of this amended Charter, the City of Tulsa shall have the power:

O. To abate nuisances of any kind, and summarily to abate any nuisance re-occurring on the same property under the same ownership, within twenty-four (24) months of previous nuisance abatement on that property, and to assess the expense thereof as a special tax against the land upon which the nuisance is located; and

Here is a link to the current text of Tulsa City Charter Article I, Section 3.

The ballot title reads:

Shall the City Charter of the City of Tulsa, Article I, Section 3, 'General Grant of Power', Paragraph 'O' be amended to clarify that the City of Tulsa may summarily abate a nuisance re-occurring on the same property under the same ownership within twenty-four (24) months of a previous nuisance abatement on that property?

The abatement process is described in Title 24 (Nuisances) of Tulsa Revised Ordinances. A nuisance can involve anything from high weeds to junk vehicles to meth labs to public indecency to illegal gambling to wild animals. City inspectors notify the owner that a nuisance exists, the owner has a set period to correct the problem himself, at which point the city can take care of the problem (e.g., mowing an overgrown lot, bulldozing an abandoned building) and impose the cost of abatement on the property owner as a tax. There is a process of notice, hearing, and appeal, but if there is a second violation within two years of the previous nuisance, the city can clean up the nuisance without notifying the owner, a summary abatement. This also resets the 24-month clock for further summary abatements.

That this on the ballot indicates that there is some question whether the existing ordinance calling for summary abatement for repeat offenses is permitted under the language of the charter, which mentions abatement, but not summary abatement. I would love to link you to video of the debate on this proposition, but there was no discussion at all when the Council voted to put this proposition on the ballot, and video from the June 21, 2017, Urban and Economic Development committee meeting is not available on the TGOVONLINE.com, which provides (or used to provide) on-demand access to recordings of official city meetings. The minutes for that meeting indicate only that Senior Assistant City Attorney Bob Edmiston spoke and that the proposition would move forward.

While I can see the potential for abuse of summary abatement, I can also see the need. Given that this procedure is already in place, and that this proposition clarifies that it is permitted under the City Charter, this appears to be a housekeeping amendment, and I am inclined to vote YES.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 25, 2017 7:07 PM.

2017 Tulsa City Charter amendment election was the previous entry in this blog.

2017 Tulsa election: Proposition 2: Electronic notice of Special Meeting is the next entry in this blog.

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