BELLEVILLE — A member of the crime-free housing task force has resigned because he does not support the recommended fee structure and mandatory background checks.
Mayor Mark Eckert said he first asked Stan Bratzke to reconsider and then formally accepted the resignation on Thursday.
Eckert said he asked Bratzke: "Stan, if you feel this strongly, isn't it best for you to be there to stand up for what you believe?"
Bratzke, a Belleville landlord, said he will continue to express his opinions at the meetings as a member of the public.
Bratzke said he resigned from the committee because he did not want his name attached to an ordinance that unfairly targets residents who rent in Belleville.
Bratzke decided to resign a week after the task force turned over its recommendations on how to address criminal activity in rental properties.
The two recommendations Bratzke questions are:
* Mandatory criminal history and sex offender registry checks, going back seven years, for tenants 18 years and older.
* Rental property registration form for each unit and a fee of $25 per unit per year.
To do a background check if you're renting to a 70-year-old relative, for example, is a waste of time and money, Bratzke said.
"I feel that criminal background checks are a good idea on everybody you don't know... but to make it mandatory in every case, I think they're just tightening the noose a little bit," Bratzke said.
Bratzke said the ordinance should target irresponsible landlords and not be a financial burden on good landlords. The crime-free housing program will be a benefit to the whole city, so all residents should pay for the personnel to operate such a program.
The city has an estimated 8,000 rental units, which means the annual fees would generate about $200,000.
Ward 1 Alderman Ken Kinsella, chairman of the task force, said members initially thought the money would go into the general fund before members realized the program would need additional staff to be successful because of the paperwork and number of rental units involved.
The task force is counting on the city to provide a vehicle for program managers or help pay for computer software upgrades that would benefit the program as well as the city's day-to-day operations, Kinsella said.
Bratzke also accuses Eckert of handpicking members who all share one perspective. And, in recent months, Bratzke said he got the feeling the committee was rushed to finish the ordinance before the April election so the mayor could count the program among his successes.
Eckert said he never gave the task force a deadline and the process is not election driven. The city has talked for a long time about addressing the issue of crime and rental properties, he added.
Eckert also said he tried to be fair by picking members with various viewpoints and stakes -- choosing three landlords and a realtor because of the impact on that group.
"I could not predict what the final outcome was going to be," Eckert said.
Other members of the task force are: Ward 4 Alderman Dean Hardt; landlords Kevin Bouse, John Masur and Stan Bratzke; Linda Havlin, of the nonprofit West End Redevelopment Corp.; Dan Nollman, a resident from the east end; and Tricia Tialdo, a real estate agent who also serves on the city's health and housing committee.
Eckert said he does not plan to appoint someone else to fill Bratzke's seat because the task force has finished its five-month review of the ordinance and turned its findings over to city staff.
The task force's next meeting is Feb. 27 at City Hall.
Eckert and staff will give the task force feedback and if there are no major changes, then the ordinance will be discussed in public hearings and City Council.
"If it becomes clear there is more discussion to be had, I'll consider adding another," Eckert said.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.