Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Unconstitutional Neighborhood Inspection Team

I received a bill from the City of Racine the other day. I was being charged $100 for an inspection of my property and $87 or so for labor and administration for the removal of materials from my property. I called up the UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) to find out what this was all about. The gentleman on the phone looked at my file, and then described the materials and their location - on a fresh slab of concrete. I told him that the fresh slab of concrete was not my property and would they please remove the charges against me. He told me that the UNIT inspector would get back to me. A day or so later there was a message for me on my answering machine at work desribing the process for contesting the charges - I needed to write a letter to the head of Public Works to plead my case.

There are a few things wrong with this. First there is the presumption of guilt. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Then of course it is up to me to prove my innocence by appealing to the same branch of government (executive) that is charging me. Whatever happened to separation of powers? What about the right to a fair trial?

UNIT may be very effective in cleaning up neighborhoods, but they still need to be constrained by our constitution. So while I am a bit perturbed by the mistake made by UNIT, I place the blame squarely with our elected alderman and mayor. Why? Because they knowingly put in place a program that violates the constitutional rights of Racine citizens. And they have all sworn to uphold the constitution.


Colt said...


Lets reform or remove UNIT.

Denis Navratil said...

Good idea Colt.

Denis Navratil said...

Update: Yesterday I spoke with the UNIT inspector and told him that the materials in question were not on my property and would he see to it that the charges were removed. He told me that he was unable to do that because of a "chain of command" issue. The proper chain of command is for me to write a letter to the head of the public works who would then have a supervisor look into the matter who would then take the concern to the UNIT inspector. At first I thought the UNIT inspector was just passing the buck/avoiding responsibility for his mistake. But he was perfectly reasonable and he even offered to pick up my letter and deliver it to the head of public works. Now I am inclined to believe that there is actually a chain of command system which seemingly prevents lower level workers from addressing mistakes that they have made. This makes no sense IMHO.

colt said...

The more of a hassle you have to put up with the more likely you will just pay the fine.
Or in other words shut up and pay your taxes/fees

Anonymous said...

You know I am tired and fed up with these policies we are forced to follow.

My response would have been well my policy is that I don't get hassled or fined about things that are not even owned by me. To remedy this my policy is that you send flowers. It is never my policy that I write a letter or follow the policy of the entity who is not following my policy.

Anonymous said...

I think the process you described exists to prevent city workers from "fixing" tickets that were correctly issued.