CityCouncil_LK

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz hears debate at Tuesday\’s City Council meeting about repealing the sunset clause in the chronic nuisance ordinance.[/media-credit]

An ordinance that would allow closer scrutiny by police of problem properties was made permanent Tuesday after the City Council voted to repeal the sunset clause of the ordinance.

The sunset clause — a built-in expiration date of the ordinance — was included in the Chronic Nuisance Premises Ordinance when it was voted into law in 2007.

The ordinance deems certain properties having an inordinate amount of police calls, building inspections or citation issues to be under closer scrutiny from the police and the city.

Currently, eight premises in Madison have been deemed a chronic nuisance under the law.

This extension of the possible expiration date — preventing the ordinance from being permanent — was met with resistance from other City Council members who lauded the ordinance as an incredible city tool to effectively deal with neighborhood problems.

Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said she wanted the sunset clause repealed that night and the housing committee previously voted 14-0 to move the nuisance law forward as it is by just lifting the sunset clause.

“This (ordinance) has worked very well,” Maniaci said, adding some language could be tinkered if changes need to be made.

Ald. Tim Bruer, District 14, characterized the ordinance as an educational tool for the city and said it is not used in a heavy-handed way.

Also in support of making the nuisance law permanent was Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele, District 20, and he called the ordinance a tool for neighborhood watchers to take back the neighborhood.

“[The ordinance] has been crafted very carefully and for the last years has been proven to be effective,” Pham-Remmele said.

Another version of the ordinance recommended by the Equal Opportunities Commission proposed some changes to the ordinance, including extending the sunset clause to Nov. 1, 2010.

Ald. Brian Solomon, District 10, sponsored the proposed alternate version of the nuisance law, saying the changes raise the standard for certain city actions such as evictions.

“The EOC, having drafted this version, was concerned with the evictions of minorities,” Solomon said.

According to the alternate nuisance drafting, other changes include: drug charges relating to chronic nuisances be filed by the district attorney, instead of using search warrants from a court; excluding domestic abuse police calls from being deemed “nuisance activities”; and requiring, rather than encouraging, landlords to seek alternate means than evictions for an abatement plan, when appropriate.

Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy said relying on the DA to pursue chronic nuisances was problematic. According to Zilavy, the DA does not always pursue charges referred to them.

“One of the issues of us having the DA take action is we have no control over what the DA does,” Zilavy said. “To make us rely on the DA takes away a big part of the ability to use part of the ordinance.”

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray was not in support of this alternate ordinance, saying the original ordinance was not “broken.”

“Why would we need to go through these checks and balances when the ordinance has been being used appropriately?” Wray asked.

– Belle Lin contributed to this report.