By Christopher J. Russo, Former City Manager
(Friday, June 23, 2017) – I want to use this opportunity to recognize a seldom acknowledged City department, its manager and department members, who are, in my opinion, part of the many unsung heroes of our City government. I am talking about our Code Compliance Department.
Most citizens don’t realize how important code compliance is. In fact, some might even consider it a bother. But, I want to tell you, as a manager for over 30 years. I know firsthand that effective code enforcement is absolutely essential to the increase in property values, protection of safety and health, and enhancement of the overall image of a community. Good code enforcement can make the difference between a “good” and a “great” city.
Don’t take my word for it though. Look at the history of this area. Before we became a City and developed proper ordinances and established a Code Compliance Department to enforce them, there was literally no local code enforcement in then “Sunny Isles” area. Properties were allowed to deteriorate, leading to blighted conditions. Such conditions, as they tend to do, led to a steady stream of crime involving theft, drugs, prostitution, and the proliferation of numerous safety hazards. After its formation, the City quickly established our Police Department which did a masterful job of cleaning up the streets and reducing crime, while the City Commission developed a series of ordinances designed to keep the City beautiful and safe, raising the quality of life of our citizens, and increasing (and preserving) property values. Besides these ordinances, our Code Compliance Department also enforces fire, building and zoning codes.
This is no easy job. Helena Forbes, our Department Manager, and her staff are responsible for ensuring this protection and compliance. They have the very difficult task of talking to citizens about their code violations – usually something negative and not something people usually want to hear about. They deal with hundreds of inquiries, violations, and other matters every month. Our highly trained team of Code Compliance Officers consider the degree and nature of the violation and how to help property owners come into compliance, recognizing that many times violations are unintentionally committed, usually due to lack of knowledge.
Helena Forbes ensure her staff is always respectful and not punitive. She requires uniform enforcement, whether our officers are dealing with making sure certain licensing is current and in place, citing structures in disrepair, eliminating trash and overgrown vegetation, dealing with fence and wall issues, eliminating prohibited signage or outdoor storage, dealing with sidewalks and lane closure problem, beach and parking enforcement, securing seawalls, even dealing with stray animals. They are out on the streets every day of the week. Helena emphasizes to her staff to always consider the delicate balance between general rights of property owners on their own individual properties with the maintenance of the City’s image and overall welfare of the general public. She ensures our Code Officers are customer friendly and here to serve you!
Sunny Isles Beach is a beautiful City in which to live, work and play. Residents enjoy magnificent year-round weather, friendly neighbors, and a low crime rate that is the envy of other cities. One of the reasons for this high quality of life is the mostly thankless job of our Code Compliance Department. So the next time you see a Sunny Isles Beach Code or Parking Enforcement Officer, please take a moment to say thank you. They deserve our support and gratitude.