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Use the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to Improve Code Enforcement

Trash on the street in front of 56 Holley Street.
Trash on the street in front of 56 Holley Street.
TJM

Code enforcement in Brockport might improve significantly if the new code enforcement office practiced using the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

TJM
65 Clinton Street, is still the biggest dump in Brockport

I have no doubt that Brockport’s new code enforcement officer, David Miller, is a good man with a solid code enforcement background. But Miller has definitely gotten off on the wrong foot in Brockport .

He has already alienated two of the most active supporters of the Village. While at the same time, he seems to have developed a chummy relationship with some of the village’s worst slumlords, especially Bob Webster.

David Miller is a very unpopular man in Brockport right now, and the only people who seem to think he is doing a good job are the college landlords.

They seem to have been granted special code enforcement privileges. They don’t get nasty letters for every new code violation. They get asked to remedy the infraction at their own convenience.

Like everyone else in Brockport, the college landlords expected the new code enforcement officer to be a tiger. But if David Miller is a tiger, he is a paper tiger, dedicated to creating more paperwork for virtually every home owner in the village.

In his best-selling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey spells out seven habits the people can use to be more effective.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • * Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

New code enforcement officer, Miller, seems to practice some of the 7 Habits, while totally ignoring others.

Miller’s current difficulties are almost certainly the result of his not practicing Habit 3: Put First Things First. And that has affected his use of each of the other habits of effective people.

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Miller stepped into his new job and almost immediately started to do some of the things that hadn’t been done in years. Than he stubbed his toe and stumbled.

According to Covey, “Being proactive means assessing the situation and developing a positive response for it.”

That is not what Brockport’s new code enforcement officer did.

Instead he came up with a plan to start his street by street inspection tour of the southwest quadrant of the village on Coleman Creek Road and Centennial Avenue, where the assessed value of the houses is considerably higher than the assessed value of most of the houses in the southwest quadrant.

Almost immediately people objected to way he was spent his time issuing nasty letters to homeowners, whose houses actually look respectable, instead of dealing with the disgraceful condition of some college rental properties, which is the problem he was hired to fix.

Instead of assessing the situation and developing a positive response for it, Miller dug in his heels and insisted that village residents had no right to tell him how to do his job.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Brockport’s new code enforcement officer, David Miller, seems to have begun with an end in mind. But is it the right end, or did he miss the mark because he ignored Habit 3 and didn’t put first things first?

Miller’s began with the end in mind of going street by street in the southwest quadrant and assessing each property for code violations.

Miller’s plan fell flat on its face because he started with the best parts of the neighborhood, which meant he had no baseline on which to base his conclusions.

Granted, Miller says he has issued some sort of paperwork to some of the landlords who own the most poorly maintained houses in Brockport. But he never publicized that, and never bothered to share that information with anybody.

For example, instead of explaining what he has done to bring the worst offenders up to code standards, he slammed a pile of papers on his desk and went berserk, screaming, and yelling in his office.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
The first thing Stephen Covey does to explain habit 3 is to quote German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832), the author of Faust.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least
Goethe

The Covey goes on to ask the critical question: What one thing could you do (you aren't doing now) that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference?

It is pretty obvious that Brockport’s new code enforcement officer, David Miller, never asked himself that question before he started his street by street, house by house assessment of the properties in the southwest corner of the village.

There is no way on this green earth that starting on Coleman Creek Road and Centennial Avenue is the one thing Miller could do that would make a tremendous positive difference in the quality of code enforcement in Brockport.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win
By extending special privileges to college landlords who own multiple rundown houses in the village, Brockport’s new code enforcement officer, David Miller, may have though he’d put himself in a win-win situation.

Instead it has put him in a lose-lose situation.

The worst eyesores in the village are not being fixed up and the village residents who have done their best to maintain their properties are fed up with the way the code enforcement officer looks the other way when a college landlord violates the Village Code over and over again.

Habit 6: Synergize
Covey says synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and uses the term creative cooperation to explain what he means.

“If you put two pieces of wood together, they will hold much more than the total of the weight held by each separately.”

But David Miller is not using creative cooperation to bring village resident together so their combined support will allow him to accomplish much more than he, or the village residents, can accomplish alone.

Instead, he is breaking up the support village residents have historically given to the code enforcement department, and encouraging them to focus their frustration on his failings instead of the failure of the college landlords to adhere to the village code.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Covey says Habit 7 is akin to taking a break to sharpen your saw when you realize your saw is dull and it is taking forever to saw down a tree.

Instead of taking a break to sharpen his saw (modify his inspection plan), David Miller insists that he has to keep sawing away with his dull saw (a failed plan) no matter what.

If you don’t think it’s a failed plan, please take a look at the slideshow of photos of properties in Brockport that need the code enforcement officer’s attention now. None of them are on Coleman Creek Road and Centennial Avenue.

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 David Miller told Bob Webster to fix the driveway at 57 State Street and return it to the way it was, and that Bob Webster had told him he would do it.

It has been more than a week, since Bob Webster fooled the new code enforcement officer by saying that he would repair the damage he had tone by illegally widening the driveway.

There is no evidence that Bob Webster has done anything to fix the damage.

Instead, Bob Webster is spending the afternoon sitting on his gated front porch at 39 State Street, isolated from people passing by on the street.

While two houses to the east, the grass and weeds on the front lawn of his rental property at 57 State Street are more than a foot tall in clear violation Section 58-35.5 K of the Village Code, which states that, "Lawns shall be kept cut and not to exceed 10 inches in height."

And Bob Webster still hasn’t done anything to repair the damage he did to the side lawn, even though David Miller says that Bob Webster promised that he would repair the damage right away to comply with the provisions of the Village Code.

How many more days will it take before Brockport’s new code enforcement officer realizes that Bob Webster is too busy relaxing on his gated front porch to fix the mess he made around the corner?