by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

RUCO saga continues

A municipal government task force empanelled under the RUCO Advisory Board meets on Aug. 25 to discuss possible changes to the Rental Unit Certificate of Occupancy ordinance, which provides for proactive inspection of rental properties to ensure that they meet housing code. After two previous meetings, the task force was unable to arrive at a consensus to make a single recommendation to the standing advisory board.

Donna Newton, advisor to the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress and a proponent of the RUCO program, said Monday that she told Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan that “as long as people were meeting I would talk, but that doesn’t mean our position has changed.”

The neighborhood congress passed a resolution on Aug. 12 in support of continued proactive inspections.

The fate of the ordinance, which representatives of the real estate industry would like to eliminate, has occasioned some bruised feelings between Vaughan and the city manager’s office.

Deputy City Manager Bob Morgan wrote in a memo to Peter Placentino, chairman of the RUCO Advisory Board and vice president for property management at Brown Investment Properties, that the city plans to move the division that administers and enforces RUCO to a new department created from a merger of the planning and housing & community development departments.

“Changes to, or the elimination of, the RUCO program will have a significant impact on the mission and the alignment of the new division,” Morgan wrote. “We need to take the time to have a larger conversation, and the city manager would appreciate it if the RUCO Board would delay further consideration of changes to RUCO until November.”

Vaughan challenged City Manager Rashad Young on the memo, writing in an e-mail, “I was surprised to learn about that online without prior notification or discussion, especially since I was the one who instigated those discussions. In my opinion, the ordinance should be clarified prior to the merger…. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the ‘new’ department have a clear message? Why cross-train employees about an ordinance that may change?” Vaughan added that she does not advocate eliminating the program, but favors targeting a subset of properties that have already been flagged as having chronic problems. — JG

Miller fights for additional consumer protections

Us Rep. Brad Miller takes the long view when it comes to financial regulation. Miller, who represents North Carolina’s 13 th Congressional District, introduced a bill in March that would augment the sweeping financial reform passed by Congress in July by ending banks’ dual roles in mortgage finance.

Miller said he doesn’t expect the bill to gain passage anytime soon, but remains optimistic about its chances.

“You have to start a fight in Congress with the expectation that you’re going to have to fight it for a while,” Miller said. “There are not a lot of wins over the financial industry. You have to pick a lot of fights to win a few.”

Last year, Miller and Rep. William D. Delahunt (D-Mass.) proposed the creation of an independent consumer protection agency, which became part of the financial reform package. Miller said there is a major conflict of interest when a large bank services a primary mortgage but doesn’t actually own the mortgage, and then allows homeowners to take out second mortgages.

“Banks are managing mortgages for other people and holding $450 billion in second mortgages that have no collateral, no security behind [them] at all,” Miller said. “This conflict of interest has led to increased foreclosures and a decline in home values.”

Miller’s solution is legislation that forces big banks to spin off their mortgage service units.

“It would be a wholesome thing all around, and solve a lot of problems,” he said. “Big banks have a stranglehold on the whole process, and it’s hurting middle-class families.” — KTB

Pornography viewing a rare occurrence at library

Earlier this month, the Greensboro City Council voted unanimously to direct city staff “to come up with an economically viable and legal way to block access to pornography at public libraries,” City Manager Rashad Young said. library staff currently maintains a comprehensive program “to protect children from viewing inappropriate materials.” Meanwhile, an analysis of incidents generated by the library for January-June 2010 indicates that only one out of 85 incidents involved pornography. The most oft cited violation, with 28 occurrences, was sleeping, followed by disorderly conduct, computer misuse and eating. — JG