In The Beginning…
This is a brief summary of the entire story. Jail time 3 years 6 months. Fines $25,000. More since.
Charge: peeling paint, missing window screens, storage of unapproved items, trash and debris. The real crime: I thumbed my nose at the City (and maybe the economic development committee).
Developer: We need to rehab all those old houses: Resident of the older area: but these are good solid houses and poor people live here and get along and if we rehab them the cost of their living will go up.
Developer: I can make a killing rehabbing them. City: this can increase the tax base.
City Council: Rehab them, we need more tax revenue, sorry about the poor.
Code intention: Good for the health, morals, and welfare of the people of Kansas City.
Reality: Code enforcement becomes a tool for the money man to control value and circumvent the law of supply and demand and make money.
My quest for fortune began in 1967. The ramifications, complications, and general cussedness of the laws governing real property are such that to own a man must have great courage or be a damn fool.
As time passed I must have been both because I acquired a number of properties, was called a landlord and then a slumlord.
The normal things happened in running rental property; then cometh the City: Nay, the developer in the form of the good Samaritan wanting to rebuild old neighborhoods. Not for profit of course, but because grand ole mansions should not be left in decline, Bull—most of them operated non-profit alright because they didn’t know anything.
In 1980 Lisa Merrill, one of the big players went bankrupt twice and with the passage of time they were all gone. The game was to buy low in old areas, fix up, use codes to make neighbors to fix up and sell high.
The idea is great and if one is astute in buying and can control costs, money can be made. There is another side to the issue, what happens to the poorer people residing in these lower cost areas?
Eh, what, huh, doesn’t everyone answer at the same time? Ever hear of section 8 housing? And the cost? And who pays the piper? I think we are getting the idea.
I didn’t fit the big players’ club in 1980. I wasn’t trying to get rich. I was busy just making a living. My properties were reasonable and I didn’t see the need to fix up to their standards so I got harassed. All my properties were bothered-inspectors overlooked properties that were much worse than mine.
On one occasion I was cited for a crack in my walkway, I pointed out it was usable, not hazardous, even joshed the Judge about a crack in the courthouse sidewalk, he replied, “we are not going to cite ourselves fill it, patch it, do something, $5.00.”
I paid a number of fines for nit-picking things, just a cost of doing business. I even paid three fines on a building I didn’t own because it was cheaper time-wise than arguing.
As the big players went broke and left the area for greener pastures I had little trouble until the early nineties when the Glover plan again drew the investor-speculator to the area. A man was mad at me and got a list of my properties to codes and fifty tickets were written in short order.
On appeal the fines and jail time were reduced to $5,000 and 20 hours of community service.
Rick Roberts was on KCMO at that time and did a live telephone interview with me and invited outside calls. Aggie Stackhouse was the only negative caller and she made a fool of herself. When Rick finally got her off the air he was heard saying “somebody get that gal a Tylenol”. It was truly funny.
My quest for fortune has been interesting. Now I have fame.
“The ramifications, complications and general cussedness of the laws governing real property are such that to own, a man must have great courage or be a damn fool; personally, I rent. Now, gentlemen!!!”
March 24th, 2000
The Boston Tea Party was a protest against a government that some people felt had become too oppressive and tax-happy.
Democracy is a wonderful word full of meaning, but if it becomes too cumbersome to work, it loses its value. If bureaucrats and policy makers, controlled by special interest groups, run our country… democracy is not working.
I fear that our country is being run by the vocal minority while the silent majority is being taken for a ride. And we just don’t know what to do–we can’t seem to do anything about it. We are resigned to the old saying that gold rules the world and he who has the gold makes the rules. One of the failings of democracy is that the silent majority is silent too much of the time, allowing vocal self-interest groups to run the show.
We are involved in many projects using tax money and tax deferment for developers that is calculated to make money but is eliminating low cost housing for the poor. We are using codes to clear areas so developers can move in and make money. We have gotten good areas declared “blighted” in order to get tax subsidies.
Urban sprawl is the thing that created inner-city blight–financed by the government– and now we want to build a Centertainment thing when many theaters are half full. Private enterprise won’t do it. No wonder! But then, there is always tax money…
I say leave these things alone and let the laws of supply and demand and economies work.
On this site are a series of letters written to the editor of the Kansas City Star, the City Council and Mayor regarding code enforcement, gentrification, and the question of “where are all the poor people going to live when we redo all the older parts of the city–and who is going to foot the bill?”
This website is an effort on my part to get the conversation going on the real, hard issues of affordable housing, poverty, politics, economics, corruption, greed, and injustice in the real estate and rental industry, and in society in general. These issues affect us all, rich or poor, for better and for worse. I hope you will find it thought-provoking and at least somewhat informative. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a personal message if you’d like, and thanks for taking the time to visit!