I recently posted a column regarding the pickup of bulk trash in Amarillo’s nasty alleys. Mayor Nelson invited citizen input so I am responding—again. This post expands my discussion about Amarillo landlords and how they are contributing to the slumming of Amarillo. Last Thursday the city trash truck picked up a mound of assorted bulk trash in an alley near my house. They did such a good job that you could practically eat off the ground after they were done. On Saturday, two days later, someone dumped the trash in the above picture right where the City had cleaned up. This bulk trash is located behind property that has five rental units, taking up one third of the block. These units are small one bedroom separate units that rent for around $400 a month. There are two city dumpsters behind this property. The second photo above shows tall weeds in the alley and on the edge of this rental property. So let me cut right to the chase—with questions first—followed by suggestions.
Page 12 of the 2016-2017 Amarillo City Budget contains this statement: “BEST PRACTIGES– the Best Practices initiative in concerned with evaluating and recommending a Best Practices policy for the City of Amarillo. One of the goals is that all departments will operate under a Best Practices policy to ensure the most efficient and proactive response to customer queries and needs. During the initial assessment, each department will gather information regarding current practices versus best practices. This includes gaining a complete understanding of fiscal impacts and knowledge of staffing needs, accreditations, etc. Ultimately, each department will determine its best practices and accreditation processes to implement. The initial assessment process for best practices will be completed by Sep. 30, 2016 and departments will prepare a plan to accommodate the accreditation processes and/or implementation of those best practices by Dec. 30, 2016.”
My first question is what “best practices” reviews or discussions have been taking place regarding the ongoing removal of bulk trash in Amarillo alleys? Is it a “best practice” to eliminate the chipper/shredder crew and replace it with one truck that hauls off everything including scrap tires? I understand there are only 8 trucks hauling off all the bulk trash all over Amarillo. Is this enough? s it a “best practice” to eliminate the monthly haul-off of bulk trash and to replace it with a 4 to 5 month haul off schedule? Will it take 5 months for the above trash to be picked up—and what will it look like by then? Is the “new practice” of having citizens put trash on the front curb workable? Is the trash in the above photo what the City is suggesting be placed on the front curb? Are there any “best practice” reviews underway to address trash haul-off for the 27,644 rental properties in Amarillo? Are Amarillo, single family home landlords currently classified as residential or commercial customers? Does for example, the owner of five units mentioned above, that has two dumpsters, get this trash hauled off at at the residential rate? Why is the City of Amarillo not treating every landlord, including owners of single family home units, as a commercial customer and charging them a higher rate? Page 34 of the City Budget explains current “sanitation revenues” and says this: “Sanitation charges are billed along with the water and sewer charges to residential and commercial customers. Residential customers receive twice-a-week service in the winter and three times per week service in the summer. Service varies with commercial accounts and can be as much as six pick-ups per week. Landfill charges are collected at the landfill or are separately billed.”
As I mentioned in an earlier post, almost 38 percent of Amarillo single family households are rentals. I assume that the City of Amarillo issues Certificates of Occupancy for every rental so it should already have a data-base of the address and owner of every rental unit. Again, my question is whether Amarillo landlords are being classified as commercial or residential customers and whether a “best practices” review should require the City of Amarillo to stop subsidizing Amarillo landlords who are doing quite well. Again, I know one landlord who owns 45 rental units, all of them single family houses, and he is grossing $29,000 a month. Why should this landlord be allowed to allow his tenants to let tall weeds grow in the alley, and more particularly, why should the City haul off tires, old mattresses, old furniture, building materials, and assorted other bulk trash for these wealthy landlords? Why are these landlords not paying for their own trash haul-off by paying a commercial rate—or some other assessment? How much “sanitation” revenue is the City of Amarillo losing by treating single family rentals as residential property instead of commercial property? All of this begs the question of whether the City of Amarillo is too cozy with the local real estate folks. The first page of the 2016-2107 City Budget says this: “This budget will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $1,425,385 which is a 3.67 percent increase from last year’s budget. The property tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year is $744,267.”
Property taxes are the number one source for City revenues, followed by sales taxes and gross receipts business taxes. Is the City of Amarillo cow-towing too much to local real estate interests, especially landlords, giving them a pass that is hurting the City’s ability to use “best practices” to remove bulk trash from Amarillo alleys? It is a fact that too many tenants are slackers when it comes to keeping their alleys clean of tall weeds. I have heard numerous complaints about tenants who dump trash on the ground behind their rental property. Too many of these tenants, who are increasingly escalating high Amarillo rent , don’t care about the general appearance of their neighborhoods—or are just trying to survive paying the essential bills. Too many homeowners now have to compete with the slumming of their blocks because landlords are grabbing up single family units and renting them. With the tightening regulations to buy a home, and the general poverty in Potter County, landlords understand the profits from rentals properties—including HUD rentals. Hey, this is capitalism, but, the City should not subsidize these capitalists by hauling off their trash or sending out crews to mow the tall weeds in the alleys behind these properties. This entire area needs a “best practices” review—and soon—to help clean up this nasty town.
Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.