New court has potential with the right steps

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The City of Natchez’s process for penalizing derelict property owners has been a joke for years.

Few people know how the process of reporting and processing violators works.

Perhaps worse, until recently the few people in the city government — who had the authority to work these cases, namely aldermen and city code enforcement personnel — lacked the backbone to provide much enforcement beyond lip service.

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One of the worst examples is the ongoing saga of burned out antebellum Arlington. Despite years of talking, nothing appreciable has been done to stop the neglect of the historic structure.

If a treasure such as Arlington wasn’t worth pursuing, the rest of the overgrown lots or dilapidated structures didn’t have a chance.

Enter Natchez Mayor Butch Brown, who has never been accused of lacking backbone or getting things done, even if bending the rules is necessary.

The City’s plans to create a new “environmental court” had good intentions, but only after checking the law and a few conversations with the municipal court judge did we all learn such an independent court cannot be created from scratch.

Instead a new municipal judge pro tem can be hired, but he cannot by law only hear code violation cases.

In the end, Brown’s let’s-get-something-done-now attitude will make a difference, even if the city had to regroup a bit.

But the sense of interest and urgency will matter only if the city’s code enforcement officers follow the legal steps required to get violators in front of a municipal court judge and the judges work cases aggressively.

Those steps could turn what was a joke into a quality-of-life changer for city residents.