Original Story----6/09/2014 10:47 PM--
Evansville City Council mulled over an ordinance Monday evening that aims to crack down on unlawful tenants at crime stricken properties. The so-called "Good Neighbor Ordinance" was the target of impassioned discussion at the meeting but the final tally remains unknown.
Council members voted five to four in support of the ordinance but we won't know if it actually passed until Tuesday morning. City Attorney Scott Danks says the changes may require a two-thirds majority vote because it's amending an existing ordinance. Danks said he wasn't sure at the meeting.
The Good Neighbor Ordinance is an expansion of the current "drug house ordinance." Under the proposed ordinance, tenants accused of major crimes face automatic eviction. Those accused of less serious offenses, like misdemeanors, have two strikes before being evicted and code violations get three strikes. Monday people piled into the Civic Center to weigh-in on the ordinance.
"This is not only the right choice to make and say yes to this but it's an ethical choice to keep us safe, the good tenants safe," said a Bradford Pointe Apartments resident in a tearful speech before the Council.
The Mayor's Office, Evansville Police Department, several property owners, and many neighborhood associations are in favor of the ordinance.
"This ordinance is a tool. We have a toolbox we just don't have enough tools in it," said Tom Littlepage, president of the Southeast Side Neighborhood Association. "If you give us the tools, we'll do the work."
The Apartment Association of Southern Indiana is among organizations opposing the ordinance, suggesting it has potential to "black list," discriminate, or harass tenants.
"There is pettiness," said a property manager at The Timbers Apartments. "I really feel this ordinance will open up the door for neighbors to be petty."
Councilwoman Connie Robinson, D-Ward 4, was among council members who voted against the ordinance. "What happened to redemption and forgiveness," asked Robinson. "Everybody can't be a homeowner so do we discriminate against people that can't have that American dream?"
Monday evening Danks said he'd know "first thing in the morning" if the if the simple majority five to four vote was enough to pass the amendments or if it requires a minimum six to three vote.
Jeff Wilhite, a former County Attorney and practicing real estate lawyer in Evansville, says he thinks a two-thirds majority is not required by statute.
Wilhite notes Indiana Code 36-4-6-12, Sec. 12. which says, "a majority vote of the legislative body is required to pass an ordinance, unless a greater vote is required by statute." Wilhite says, in his legal opinion, all the Council needs is a simple majority because, in this case, a greater vote is not required by statute.
Following Danks decision, Wilhite says the possibility exists that a lawsuit could be filed in Superior Court if someone believes he decided incorrectly.