Do you live in Moultrie? Our City Council, with the Mayor and the City Manager’s support, passed a regulation that affects every home and building within the city limits. In a state that fiercely protects the Bill of Rights, it is ironic that the city of Moultrie has quietly eroded the 4th Amendment rights of its citizens who should have the highest expectation of privacy in their own homes.
Allegedly to tackle blight, the City Council decided to enforce the discretionary International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). Before voting, they contacted select property owners, and the proposal quickly became a heated topic with widespread dissent. Last August, the City Council adopted this unpopular IPMC code enforcement despite valid concerns over selective enforcement (discrimination) and policy negligence.
This code now means that for you to establish a new connection to the city’s electrical services when purchasing or renting a property or to reestablish services that have been cut off due to failure to pay, the City of Moultrie will require entry into your home for its own in-house code inspection. The inspectors have the right to deny occupancy for the property and to refuse to connect services until all renovations have been completed to their satisfaction. Code offenses can include windows that are painted shut, missing caulking around bathroom or kitchen fixtures, effective but “unsightly” roof patches, electrical rewiring, untrimmed bushes, and cracks in driveways. With the city’s right to deny occupancy and with no other options for utility services, citizens have no other options than to allow city inspectors into the privacy of their homes.
Notifying only real estate agents, City Hall refrained from issuing an official press release to inform you. City Manager Pete Dillard argued against the city’s need to do so. According to him, it is a citizen’s duty to obtain information. I asserted to him that City Hall squandered an excellent public relations opportunity to engage with its constituents, that a public service office has a duty to inform its citizens, and that in the Information Age, dissemination of information has never been easier. City Hall did not notify its 14,268 constituents, not even on its Facebook page nor as a clause on the back of your monthly bill.
Dillard dismissed my concerns with his civics lesson of the day for me, which was “Ignorance is bliss.” It immediately brought to mind a quote by Quentin J. Schultze, an author I studied in college: “Humble listening is the beginning of all real leadership.”
How can Moultrie protect the rights of its citizens and benefit from a thriving relationship between the two when communication is not a priority for City Hall? I contend that communication is the very cornerstone for growth. Along with other families committed to Moultrie, I desire efficiency, excellence, and integrity in City Hall as it creates a legacy for our children. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well… As one college president said, ‘A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.’”
Why would the City of Moultrie pass such a constitutionally malignant code, fail to inform you of the vote, and patronize those who seek to establish dialogue after the fact? An adamant proponent for the Bill of Rights, Patrick Henry, in advocating for the rights of citizens and transparency in government, gave a notable speech on June 9th, 1788, in which he declared, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them … to cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend to his country.”
Rachel L. Weeks