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Fight Like a Cat; Strike and Step Forward

A tractor with a front-end loader removes dirt from the side law at 57 State Street.
A tractor with a front-end loader removes dirt from the side law at 57 State Street.
Pam Ketchum

Bobby Burns was right; “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.”

Illegal driveway expansion on Park Avenue.
Pam Ketchum

Two days ago I was writing an article about just how many things have changed for the better since Margay Blackman was elected Mayor. Little did I know how wrong I was, so that article will have to wait for another time.

Around four o’clock, I took a break so I could do what my doctor ordered, take my daily walk around the Village.

Because I just had a colonoscopy to surgically remove the colon cancer the doctor found last month, the only exercise I’m allowed to do is walking, and the oncologist wants me to walk as much as I can every day.

A few weeks ago, I could barely walk uptown before I was exhausted. Now I’m up to walking two miles a day, and I’m not even winded afterwards.

So I got up from my desk and started my walk. I vary the route every day, but on that day the route was down Utica Street, across the Smith Street Bridge, east along the Erie Canal path to the Park Avenue Bridge, down Park Avenue to Adams Street, and then up Utica Street to my house.

I got as far as the corner of State Street and Park Avenue before things gang aft agleyed.

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley
Robert Burns, To a Mouse

Bob Webster was tearing up the side lawn in order to widen the driveway and create yet another parking spot.

I walked on and met Pam Ketchum, who was working on a house she and Greg recently purchased. So I stopped to talk.

As we were talking, Jo Matela drove up and told Pam that Bob Webster was widening the driveway at 57 State Street illegally.

In a heartbeat, Pam grabbed her cell phone, jumped into Jo’s car, and the two of them drove off to the scene of the crime.

If Jo and Pam hadn’t stepped up and done something at that moment, then the people of Brockport would probably never have known that Bob Webster had spent the afternoon breaking the law, and thinking he was going to get away with it again.

Brockport residents owe them both a big thank you.

Pam and Jo sprang into action. They didn’t sit and contemplate the all the various options available to them. They didn’t just stand there; they did something.

That is what Brockport’s voters expected would happen after Margay Blackman was elected Mayor. But it hasn’t happened.

The garbage laws are still unenforced, and the college landlords are still openly violating the Village Code at will, by doing things such as illegally widening driveways, right under the noses of village officials.

In response to an email about this driveway expansion, Mayor Blackman replied with incomplete data about the history of the situation.

“There is a history to this. Last fall the driveway was expanded and Bobby was issued a notice of violation and, if I am not mistaken, an appearance ticket by Scott Z.”

She never followed up to find out or explain what happened to the appearance ticket.

  • Did Bob Webster really get an appearance ticket?
  • Did Bob Webster ever have to go to court?
  • If Bob Webster had to go to court, what did the Sweden Town Court do about it: Nothing or a slap on the wrist?

You can’t change things by doing nothing, and doing nothing seems to be the way the Village government is dealing with these constant code violations by the college landlords.

Maybe it’s time for the Village to play hardball.

When I was a teenager on the hardscrabble streets of New York City, I learned a lesson about how to keep bigger and stronger teenagers from picking on me.

One of the adults in the neighborhood told me that when you are cornered, fight like a cat; strike and step forward.

It’s amazing how many six foot tall 200 pound punks would leave me alone after they started a street fight with me, and I knocked them down by tackling them around the ankles and then scrapped their face on the concrete sidewalk.

I left those street fights bruised and battered, but after that the six foot tall 200 pound punks would cross the street rather than mess with me again.

It worked like a charm. In no time at all the punks stopped picking on me.

That’s what the Village has to do; it has to fight like a cat; strike and step forward.

  • Pull the C of O from the house at 57 State Street.
  • Red tag the house at 57 State Street as uninhabitable.
  • Then drag the court proceedings out until well into the fall semester so Bob Webster loses the income for that semester.

Sure, that’s playing dirty, but you have to fight fire with fire, and you have to play dirty when the other guy I playing dirty.

Throw Bob Webster into a legal nightmare. Maybe he’ll wake up and start obeying the law rather than forking out a wad of money to his lawyers.

And if he doesn’t, it will cost him in legal fees.

If the Village wants to stop Bob Webster from openly violating the Village Code, it has to put Webster in a lose-lose situation – lose your income or lose your legal fees.

Or as Pam Ketchum says, maybe it’s time to implement the rental registration fee.

Perhaps the landlords should be footing a larger part of the code enforcement cost by paying rental registration fees that are per unit. That would be fairer to the landlord population and the non-landlord single family homeowners.

If Mayor Blackman and the Trustees want to maintain their credibility, they have to do something. It’s time to stop standing on the sidelines doing nothing.

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