INSPECTION PROCESS FLAWED
The March 7 story, “Inspect this,” by Bruce Rushton, exposes several problems with landlords and the city’s housing inspection process. Michael Gant represents both sides: He is a landlord and an inspector. As a landlord, he owns nine properties, and has had 100 citations for violations, but zero fines. As an inspector, he has inspected at least one of his own properties, also with zero fines. Aside from this blatant conflict of interest, Rushton’s story lays bare a basic truth of the housing inspector process: It doesn’t work.
Property owners like Rushton’s neighbor, who own one house and live in it, must meet specific standards, while landlords who own multiple properties seem to get some breaks. These landlords follow a code that permits violation after violation with no consequence. They can have piles of garbage, leaky roofs, dog feces piling up in the yard, decayed buildings and other blatant violations. They may get cited but are likely to pay no fines. If they do get fined, it is worth the hassle and the cost of the fine to keep doing business outside of the building code.
Poorer people must live somewhere, so they’ll endure the bucket catching rain in the living room. And landlords want the rent rolling in, so they’ll keep tenants who don’t clean up after their dogs. Neighbors and neighborhoods pay the price for this.
All of us pay the price for our city’s failure – neglected homes and tenants living in bad housing. It’s time to fix this. Here are three ideas: 1) The city council and Mayor Langfelder need to demand code enforcement; 2) All conflicts of interest in the inspection and enforcement processes must be eliminated; and 3) A citizen’s council could be established to assess the process for inspections, compliance and reform.
CURATION OF RACE RIOT ARTIFACTS
Much discussion over the artifacts associated with the 1908 Springfield Race Riot archaeological site has played out in the media, including where those artifacts will be displayed and housed in perpetuity. The area impacted by the Carpenter Street Underpass Project is subject to the Illinois Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act. According to this statute, the artifacts are the property of the state, and permanent management is entrusted to the Illinois State Museum (ISM) on behalf of the people of Illinois.
Following archaeological investigations by Fever River Research, the ISM Research & Collections Center in Springfield will curate all artifacts and related records from the project. We estimate the ISM will receive these materials in late 2021. Museums and other institutions can then coordinate with the ISM to request loans of material, following the ISM’s established loan procedures. For example, artifacts from the New Philadelphia site in Pike County are currently on display in the “Many Voices, One Nation” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
The 1908 Race Riot artifacts are critical for understanding a complicated and violent period of history in our city – one that has been ignored for too long. They have national significance for their role in the advancement of civil rights. As the primary institution preserving the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois, the ISM looks forward to caring for these objects and working with the Central Illinois African American History Museum, the NAACP and other organizations to help bring their story to light.
Brooke M. Morgan, PhD
Curator of Anthropology
Illinois State Museum