Does City government exist to serve the residents, or do the residents exist to feed the Government Organism? I dont mean the true civil servant who works hard and earns every penny of his or her paycheck. I'm referring to those who specialize in Creating Messes, Perpetuating Messes, and Profiting from Messes. You know who you are.
According to a recent Buffalo News article, the city is threatening foreclosure against residents who are not up to date on their water or garbage bills. So if they haven't ponied up (or should I say coughed up? expectorated?) the cash by a certain date, they must pay a $438 foreclosure fee. Well THAT certainly should improve everyone's financial situation enough to make the water bill more affordable.
Then, if the homeowner manages to hit the Lotto, conjure up an inheritance, or be offered a no-cut NFL contract with signing bonus prior to October, they may be able to pay the foreclosure fee, the water bill AND the garbage bill to prevent the city from generously auctioning off their home in October, presumably to your friendly neighborhood Absentee Landlord, or perhaps one of Donald Trump's many Apprentices.
Woo hoo! Can't wait to see all the delinquent Buffalo homeowners at the NFL Combine trying to catch a scout's eye! (Don't ask us about steroids. We haven't figured out how theyll pay for those yet.) Maybe officials could time them in the 40 as they flee the city.
To me this seems akin to having your car repossessed if your insurance payment is late; having your diploma burned if you miss a student loan payment; seeing your kidney sold on the black market if your medical bill is overdue; being publically electrocuted if the utility company doesn't get their money on time.
Consumer advocates fear this draconian policy will drive Buffalo homeowners to desperate lengths to avoid the foreclosure process. It could force them to take out high interest loans from credit card companies, scam artists or loan sharks. The elderly don't need yet another reason to feel helpless.
Is this how the city wants to treat its Tax Base? Note to city: A Tax Base is not like an Army Base that you can just close if it's underperforming. It is your bread and butter. Perhaps you could take your foot off the loaf and give us our plastic bag back. Because I don't see the value in making your residents even more financially vulnerable than they already are. You may even succeed in driving out of the city those homeowners who don't want to play Foreclosure Roulette.
Here is an idea from me, personally, free of charge. How about incentives for early payment? Try this: everyone who pays on time gets entered into a drawing for four tickets to a downtown Buffalo professional sporting event, complete with free parking passes, or even a limo ride, along with a voucher for concessions. Sign me up! It would be fun to advertise this. It would be good PR for any company that wanted to help out.
I understand that unpaid bills cannot go on indefinitely. So go after the egregious offenders the normal way -- turn the accounts over to a collection agency -- and leave everyone else alone.
Someone needs to remind the city that the glass is half full. Let's not knock the whole thing off the table in an effort to grab the pitcher When it comes to bureaucratic missteps Buffalo is Good to the Last Drop, as it apparently intends to collect payments on overdue water bills by staggering around drunkenly and carrying a Big Brick. That's the posture that lurches into view as the City threatens homeowners with FORECLOSURE if they're behind on those water or garbage bills.