MICHIGAN CITY – An ordinance that would have established a local landlord registry and rental safety inspection program was voted down by the Michigan City Common Council, and almost killed after both its author and co-sponsor withdrew support.
Councilwoman Sharon Carnes, who originally introduced the ordinance, made a motion last week to table it until the council’s Sept. 17 meeting. She said she was still waiting on the county to submit certified assessed valuation information that would determine whether the city could afford to hire additional code inspectors to enforce the ordinance.
However, only she and Councilman Tim Bietry voted to table; the remaining six council members voted to make a final decision on the ordinance.
Carnes said she had pledged to remove her sponsorship if the city couldn’t prove its ability to hire the additional inspectors, and she followed through on that pledge.
And although he requested after the ordinance’s first reading to be added as a co-sponsor, and vowed to get the measure passed, Councilman Bryant Dabney also removed his sponsorship.
“I think I’ve made myself very clear that I want to do something that will protect our renters,” Dabney said. “But throughout this process, I’ve met with some landlords … and I’ve done further research, and talked to some other people that have read this ordinance over with me. We've gone over it line by line. And if we were to table this ordinance, I was told that we wouldn't be able to make these changes that I would like to see...
“So, with me thinking that I've found, possibly, a better way ... I don't think that I can go through and support it because of the additional information and guidance that I've gotten on this,” Dabney said.
Candice Silvas, also was listed as a co-sponsor on the ordinance, resigned from the council recently after moving outside the Second Ward, which she was elected to represent.
Just when it seemed as if the ordinance would die, Councilman Sean Fitzpatrick offered his sponsorship – but moments later, cast his vote against it.
In fact all other council members except Bietry voted against it.
“It's not perfect,” Bietry said. “Very few ordinances or resolutions are perfect. But it's a crack in the door, it's an opening. I do think we need some way to better administer this whole system. And without it, we've made no progress at all.
"With it, it can be fine-tuned and it can be made to be something that's better than it is now, something that more of us can wrap our arms around."
Jim Meyer, council attorney, said that after being denied, the ordinance cannot come back for council consideration until January 2020 at the earliest.
In other business:
• An ordinance that would allow the city to spend $30,000 on new trash receptacles was tabled. Bietry thanked Alena Ursida, Republican candidate for the Second Ward council seat, for submitting a quote she found for trash cans that cost less than half the $30,000 that had been requested. But he noted those receptacles don’t meet the city’s quality standards. Ursida asked for additional time to do more research and submit an alternative quote
Paul Przybylinski, Democratic candidate for the Second Ward seat, suggested the Michigan City Redevelopment Commission pay for trash receptacles placed within the North End TIF district.
Councilman Johnny Stimley said he’d like to see Ursida’s newest research; and the council voted 5-3 to bring the issue back to the table at its Sept. 3 meeting. Bietry, Dabney and Carnes were the three who voted against tabling the ordinance.
• By a vote of 7-1, with only Councilman Ron Hamilton opposed, the council voted to appropriate $125,000 from the Riverboat Fund to save the Michigan City Municipal Golf Course from finishing the year in the red.
• In order to help the Michigan City Police Department cover overtime costs for the remainder of 2019, the council voted unanimously to appropriate $100,000 from the Riverboat Fund.
• The council also unanimously approved an ordinance vacating portions of two public water and sanitation easements on Blue Chip Casino property, where construction is wrapping up. Blue Chip Vice President Brenda Temple said the casino’s $150 million expansion is scheduled to open on Oct. 4.