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January 22, 2009

City Reports Progress in Nuisance Vehicle Cases

With its nuisance vehicle ordinance and enforcement now court tested, the City of Memphis embarked on a second round of public hearings regarding properties within city limits that were deemed in non-compliance.

City Marshal John Myers presented reports on more than 20 properties that received notice via certified mail regarding violations of the city ordinance.

Myers reported that the majority of the issues had been resolved prior to the January 8th Memphis City Council meeting.

“The bulk of the property owners either have contacted the police department regarding their plans to remedy the situation, or they have already brought their property into conformity with the ordinance,” Myers told the council.

A number of citizens were present at the meeting regarding their notices.

Richard Hurley questioned the need for the ordinance. He seemed to take offense to the terminology of “junk vehicles” regarding the property issues in question.

“I don’t own any junk vehicles,” he told the council. “Just because a vehicle isn’t in running condition, doesn’t mean it’s junk. I don’t understand why you can’t keep something like this on your own property.”

Alderman James Parker noted that the city doesn’t prevent citizens from owning property. The ordinance targets public safety issues.

The city ordinance does not prohibit a citizen from owning a non-functional, non-licensed vehicle. It simply prohibits storing such property on the city right of way, or storing it on private property in such a manner that creates public safety hazards such as un-maintained grass, or habitat for mosquitoes.

“All in all, it seems like we have seen excellent improvement,” said Mayor William Reckenberg regarding the latest round of public hearings.

However Alderman Lucas Remley questioned the enforcement methods of the latest round of nuisance letters mailed out by the police department.

He indicated his preference to see the police department handle the nuisance vehicle cases on a complaint basis instead of policing the community looking for infractions.

Alderman Allen Creek noted that the council had instructed the police department to handle the situation in this manner because the first series of public hearings had generated hard feelings among the limited number of citizens receiving notices. Those individuals had indicated a sense that they were being singled out under the law, when there were many other infractions within the city that were not being reviewed.

“I strive to treat everyone fairly,” said Myers. “I don’t believe we want to subject one person to one law and then let another person slide by for doing the same thing.”

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