Editorials

Belleville housing inspectors need to stay away from babies

Belleville city leaders are trying to figure out whether they really want residents’ homes inspected when there is a new baby in the house. Occupancy changes require a $60 fee and inspection if the last one was more than a year ago.
Belleville city leaders are trying to figure out whether they really want residents’ homes inspected when there is a new baby in the house. Occupancy changes require a $60 fee and inspection if the last one was more than a year ago. Photo illustration

Belleville leaders twice recently have made public statements that indicate they are uncertain about what is happening in their own Health, Housing and Building Department.

Mayor Mark Eckert during the July 18 City Council meeting asked about city inspectors doing a full inspection when there is a change on the occupancy permit. He learned there was a full inspection and a $60 charge if someone new goes on the occupancy permit and the house had not been inspected within a year.

Then Alderman Roger Wigginton said this: “We’re certainly not going to go and make them have to have their property completely reinspected because of a new baby.”

Wigginton sees that as an affront to his sensibilities, but that is exactly what the city’s housing inspectors have been asked to do.

Wigginton is right that the city needs to proceed deliberately. These are people’s constitutional rights being discussed, and the policies can easily be abused or perceived as discriminatory — something to which this community should be especially sensitive even though the Justice Department consent decree is decades behind it.

They also need to consider not just what is legal, but what residents see as fair play. An extra 1 percent sales tax will pass public muster, but not a tax that puts a sticker on windshields.

Forcing newlyweds, new parents, families caring for grandma or families with children returning from college or the service to allow inspectors into their homes, and charging them $60 for the intrusion, is extreme. It is out of step with the community’s standards.

  Comments