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Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014
Politics

Buckhorn, citing Brown scandal, orders slumlord crackdown


Published:

TAMPA - Starting Sunday, code enforcement crews will begin street-by-street sweeps through northern and eastern Tampa aimed at finding code violations and ticketing the violators.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Thursday the 30-day effort is targeting slum lords and other property owners deemed "the worst of the worst."

"We're not targeting the senior citizen on disability pay," Buckhorn said. "We're going after the most egregious slum lords."

Buckhorn's announcement follows last week's revelation that then-Tampa Port Authority Chairman William "Hoe" Brown operated a squalid, illegal trailer park on property he owned at North Florida and West Stanley Street at the northern edge of Seminole Heights.

The trailer park had five small units subdivided into 10 studio apartments. Tenants paid about $500 a month.

Brown ran the trailer park for at least a year until complaints from tenants and a visit from city code enforcement officials last week prompted him to shut it down. Code Enforcement Director Jack Slater said he found at least one unit filthy, reeking and overrun with cockroaches.

Brown also owns a six-unit motel at the same corner that has been a focus of both Tampa Police Department and city Code Enforcement officers over the years.

Over the last year, police were called to both the motel and trailer park more than 110 times.

Brown's properties are at the geographic center of one of the three areas Buckhorn has targeted for sweeps.

"Obviously, the Hoe Brown circumstance has really reinforced what we are about to do and the need to do it," Buckhorn said.

Here are the three areas:

North of Sulphur Springs - Florida Avenue, Busch Boulevard, 22nd Street North and Linebaugh Avenue.

Old Seminole Heights - Central Avenue, Bird Street, Florida Avenue and Sligh Avenue.

Grant Park - 50th Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, 58th Street and Interstate 4.

All three areas are in City Council District 5, represented by Frank Reddick. Reddick has been critical of the city's Code Enforcement operations in recent months for being too reactive and not aggressive at rooting out violations.

"I'm happy to see he has decided to take the initiative and do something about code enforcement in the City of Tampa," Reddick said after Buckhorn's announcement. "But this is just a start."

Reddick said he wants to see more collaboration between police and code officers, since crime and code violations often go hand-and-hand.

In a written statement announcing the sweep, Buckhorn said the aim is to get rid of blight.

"Blight is a quality of life issue for the people living under what can be very challenging conditions in these neighborhoods," Buckhorn said.

Buckhorn added that he has asked his Neighborhood Enhancement Division, which includes Code Enforcement and Clean Cities, to "be proactive and go after the worst of the worst."

Six code officers have been assigned to the program and will operate seven days a week, Buckhorn said.

The mayor compared the sweep to a city initiative under way in Sulphur Springs, which has three dedicated code officers. He said code officers there have collected three tons of trash a week since January.

Buckhorn has said he plans to add more money to Code Enforcement in his 2014 city budget, which goes to the Tampa City Council on July 25.

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7871

Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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