In response to the recent announcement by Damon Krane that he’s running for mayor, our current mayor, Steve Patterson, made a few claims to The Athens NEWS that don’t hold up under scrutiny. We expect our local news outlets to operate under a mandate similar to that of their national counterparts, who at least make an effort to fact-check the claims of politicians on the national stage.
A major portion of Krane’s platform is centered around Athens’ status as a haven for slumlords. Krane proposes to actually empower city Code Enforcement to do its job by fully funding and staffing the office. He’d rather see the renters in town – a not-insignificant voting bloc – living in decent, affordable housing than allow the city’s wealthiest landowners to milk their tenants as their houses deteriorate into unlivable hovels.
In a March 6 Athens NEWS article, Patterson claimed that six inspectors employed by Code Enforcement inspected Athens’ rental properties 5,625 times last year. But these numbers don’t add up. The number of inspections Code Enforcement is claimed by Patterson to have performed, oddly enough, is the exact number of registered rental housing units in Athens, according to the City of Athens website. And according to Code Enforcement’s 2017 annual report, the number of inspections performed that year was 10,000. That’s nearly 50 percent more inspections than registered rental housing units for that year – which makes sense, as Code Enforcement is not just expected to perform annual inspections of each registered rental unit.
Code Enforcement also is expected to perform follow-up inspections to determine whether previously identified violations have been corrected, and Code Enforcement is expected to perform yet more inspections in response to tenant complaints. In fact, according to data just released on the City of Athens website, Code Enforcement performed 7,611 inspections in 2018 – and that number does NOT include those performed in response to tenant complaints.
Furthermore, according to the City of Athens website, there are actually four code officers employed by Code Enforcement. And according to the 2017 report, only three of those four inspectors are charged with performing rental housing inspections. In other words, according to the City website, Athens has just half the number of rental housing inspectors that Patterson claimed, and those three employees are expected to perform a substantially higher number of inspections than Patterson claimed.
If we assume close to the same number of tenant complaint follow-up inspections were performed last year as were performed in 2017, then the three people entrusted with inspecting rental housing would have had to inspect about nine units each, on every day of the year – weekends and holidays included.
For his part, Patterson’s challenger Damon Krane immediately caught Patterson’s false statements to The Athens NEWS, and the next morning published a blog post linked from his Facebook page explaining the situation and linking to all the evidence cited above. Krane also claims to have submitted all of this information to The Athens NEWS the same day he published his blog post. But almost three weeks later, the newspaper still hasn’t shared this information with its readers. You can only learn about it by reading Krane’s Facebook page and blog.
Krane’s efforts to strengthen the power of tenants in the Athens rental market should not be allowed to be dismissed by the incumbent mayor using misleading and inaccurate figures. The people of Athens deserve the same attention to detail from local papers that we expect from national news outlets. I hope The Athens NEWS isn’t willing to publish any statistics anyone throws out there, without double-checking the data themselves. We expect and deserve a bit more effort.
Editor’s note: Jeremy Jones of Athens belongs to the Southeast Ohio Democratic Socialists of America.
Some good points but I would note that one major difference between a small twice-weekly with a news staff of three people and a “national news outlet” is that sometimes it takes us longer to do a story. An article on the issues discussed in the above Reader’s Forum can be viewed at this link. – Terry Smith, editor