Thursday, November 6, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: College is the place to learn to live

Sara Shookman

Council member Nancy Bain struck a chord with me at last week's Athens City Council meeting. Because this is a college town, the solution to many problems is education.

Education. That's why the Council developed the landlord tenant agreement that has bogged down the last few weeks of City Council action.

Young adults move on from high school and come to places like Ohio University where they hope (or maybe their parents hope) to grow up and graduate in four or five years. It's accepted as a transitional time in a person's life. A time and place for mistakes made and lessons learned.

Learning to Life
But a lot of that learning seems to interfere with the lives of other college town residents.

Our Athens neighbors who have already passed through their college transition really don't want to deal with ours. Rightfully so. Many college students are rude, dirty neighbors. So Athens has city codes - like most cities - to prevent the abuse of students' bad habits.

These codes were more than words to the council members and city representatives that created them. But to students, they might be just more laws to break. So the solution? Education.

The Landlord Tenant Agreement
Council President Bill Bias said Monday that the forms were designed to educate residents so neighbors could rest assured that college students were aware of the code.

So the form was designed and passed along to landlords so they could be charged with educating their tenants about city rules. For whatever reason, lots of landlords did not comply - 334 to be exact, says Athens City Law Director Pat Lang.

Lang defended the position that the non-compliance was a sign the form was inadequate.

And if the city's action in the realm of code enforcement is any indication, it might be. Education hasn't been the simple solution to mounting problems with garbage. Instead the city has hired a Solid Waste Code enforcement officer, better known to students as the trash man.

Taking out the Trash 101
Now students who live in off-campus housing scattered about Athens wake up Sunday mornings to trash tickets and warnings on their front doors. No garbage in the front of the house, no beer cans in the yard. Clean it up.

And the city agreed Monday to begin filing almost 500 misdemeanor charges against those 300 plus landlords without the proper paperwork.

Time for some simple Athens city arithmatic:

Mad Athens Residents = Landlord Tenant Agreement
LTA No Compliance = Increasingly Mad Athens Residents
Increasingly Mad Athens Residents = Trash Man + 500 Criminal Charges

Now the city will collect fines from trashed houses and delinquent landlords, which equals double jeopardy.

Back to the Lesson
So what have we learned?

Living next door to college students isn't easy. Living next door to students in a college town is a fact of life.

Is the problem education? Maybe.

Is the problem inherent with immature young adult behavior? More likely.

I agree with Councilman Elahu Gosney, who said Monday, “I think that (the forms) are minimally effective if at all."

Whether a tenant signs off on the rules or not, they may not follow them. And it might be time for a solution that starts there -- at the root of the problem.

Links to previous Athens MidDay coverage on this topic:

Update: Fixing the Form or Pressing Charges

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