Miami-Dade, FL — When all logic and reason is void of a decision — as in many decisions made by the state — authorities often turn to their only option, threats of extortion backed with force. The bureaucratic iron fist of Miami-Dade county is under fire this week, after providing an example of these threats, for their decision to issue notices of violations to residents for damage on their hurricane-wrecked properties.
One resident, Celso Perez, decided to speak up about a warning he received for his downed fence, only hours after the storm.
The Monday after the storm, Perez was outside with his neighbors cleaning up the damage when a Miami-Dade County vehicle pulls up.
“And we thought he was here to help us or offer some type of assistance with the trees, maybe he was going to bring us ice or something,” said Perez. But there was no help to be given — only threats.
Instead of help, Perez said, “He said he would have to cite me for having my fence down.”
The code enforcer then brazenly walked over to the only part of the fence left standing and slapped a warning on it.
Perez explained to WSVN that he thought this had to be a joke. But it was not.
“I laughed. I thought he was kidding. ‘You are kidding right? We just had a hurricane six hours ago.’ ‘No, I’m not kidding. I have to cite you for this.’ I just laughed. OK, whatever; knock yourself out!”
To those who are thinking that this has to be an isolated incident, think again.
According to WSVN, after Irma, the county handed out 680 pool barrier safety notices and 177 electrical hazard safety notices to homeowners suffering damage from Irma.
Naturally, after this story began taking off in local and alternative media outlets, the Miami-Dade county attempted to clarify their ridiculous tactics by saying it was done for everyone’s safety and it was not a fine. However, residents — especially those who were issued warnings — aren’t buying it.
A building official wrote, “The safety notice is neither a notice of violation warning nor a citation. It is important that we reach residents in the immediate aftermath of the storm, because that is when conditions are most dangerous, and taking steps to protect life is a critical part of the recovery process.”
In response to their reasoning, Perez had this to say.
“Give us a minute to breathe,” said Perez. “Let us get our power back on. And I wouldn’t mind if they told me that a few days down the line or due time but it bothers me that they came out here just a few hours after the storm had passed.”
Howard Finkelstein, WSVN legal expert also weighed in on the matter, saying, “This is outrageous. After Irma, people were stressed, they were worried and for a government official to slap a warning notice on them to add to their misery is insulting. Incredibly, it is legal but should Miami-Dade County be doing it? No. The timing was awful.”
Also, while there is no immediate fine imposed with these notices, make no mistake that officials will most assuredly escalate to this point for non-compliance.
This is what the state does.
As TFTP reported last year, residents in Louisiana who suffered catastrophic flooding, were told they had to pay the state for a permit before they could even begin repairing their homes. Seriously.
Considering the daunting expense of rebuilding in itself, those State permission slips make reconstruction cost-prohibitive for some, while others — given the strict regulations pertaining to the floodplain and more — were forced to face the fact that they may not be able to rebuild on their own property at all.
“We haven’t suspended any or our requirements for permitting,” Justin Dupuy, building official for Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge, told Reason last year in an interview. “Before they start making any repairs, they just need to call in and check with us to see what they need.”
Any homes that needed more extensive reconstruction than simply the removal of water-damaged drywall and carpeting — cases where waters reached the level of electrical sockets — needed a full construction permit from the parish government.
Was the city providing a service by going around issuing warnings for code violations only hours after the hurricane? Or, were they carrying out an ill-thought out plan, which led to the unnecessary perceived harassment by residents, because they know no other way? Let us know in the comments below.