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Letter to Mayor Rybak of Minneapolis

1702 Glenwood Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55405

June 12, 2009


Mayor R. T. Rybak
City of Minneapolis
City Hall
350 S. Fifth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Dear Mayor Rybak:

I recently received two letters from the city’s Inspections department related to tall grass and weeds on the perimeter of adjacent properties that I own at 1715 Glenwood Avenue and 1719 Glenwood Avenue. The letters were dated June 2, 2009. The due date for reinspection of the properties was June 7, 2009. The letter indicated that if the situation was not corrected by the due date, the city would sent a contractor to do the work and I would be billed. Furthermore, this would give the city the right to send contractors out without further notice of violations. Grass had to be cut to a maximum of 8 inches.

I received the two letters when I picked up my mail at the post office on June 8th. I had been at an academic conference in Michigan leaving town on June 3rd and returning late in the evening of June 7th. Even so, on June 8th, after I read those notices, I cut the grass and weeds on those two properties. Most grass was growing near the fences on either side of the property. The large lawn at 1719 Glenwood had been mowed recently.

On June 9th, my caretaker who mows the lawn spotted the city-hired contractor preparing to do work pursuant to the inspectors’ orders. The caretaker complained that the work had already been done. Yes, replied the contractor, but some of the grass was above 8 inches. Here and there there were some blades of grass that remained uncut but it was far from being a “nuisance condition”. In a walk through my neighborhood, I observed some grass of the same type that was three feet tall. The 8-inch requirement is excessive. Happily, the contractors were talked out of doing any work.

I am writing to ask your philosophy regarding situations of this type. Your campaign manager recently turned down an invitation from Metro Property Rights Action Committee to debate your mayoral opponents during one of our monthly meetings. However, I was invited to communicate if I had any questions about issues related to your position as Mayor. I do have a question. I want to know your position on the city’s aggressive use of expensive contractors for snow shoveling, weed cutting, and the like.

I think that the city is demanding unreasonable services from its residents, making this community a meaner place. Surely Minneapolis residents have a right to go out of town for a week without falling out of compliance with inspections requirements. We do not owe city government this kind of constant attention to minor conditions related to our properties. You have taken on a function which few, if any, want you to perform.

Many regard this policy as an attempt to collect revenues because of cuts in state aids. While I have some sympathy for your financial predicament, you must realize that part of the state’s policy is due to the bad reputation which the city of Minneapolis has had due to its past abusive activities. If you now have a revenue shortfall, you should cut city services and staff. I would suggest that the place to start is with the Inspections department.

If inspectors are roaming the city in search of weed violations, there are too many of them. I would suggest making cuts in this area. Give city residents a break. There is a recession going on and some of us are stressed.

I'm enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope for your reply.



William McGaughey


Note: As of July 20, 2009, Mayor Rybak had not replied to this letter. McGaughey filed to run against him on that date.

taking this to the next level (a humorous suggestion)


Note: In the winter, the city of Minneapolis sends out contractors to shovel sidewalks if the property owner has not shoveled the walk down to the concrete to the required width within four hours after the snow has stopped falling. Ordinance 445.30 states: “Any person who violates, disobeys, omits, or neglects, or refuses to comply with any of the provisions of this chapter shall be in violation of this Code and guilty of a petty misdemeanor, and each and every hour after the expiration of said four-hour daytime period ... that the snow shall remain on such sidewalk, shall be deemed to be a separate violation of this Code.” I read this paragraph to mean that if, say, a person who takes a vacation trip leaves a sidewalk unshoveled for a week’s time, the city could issue 164 misdemeanor citations (seven days times 24 hours in a day less 4 hours) and collect fines totaling $17,136. The contractor's charges for shoveling - $3 per lineal foot - would be additional.


See other related writings.