Harkening back to my days as a student in political philosophy I was relieved that guys like Locke and Rousseau offered a reasonable alternative to Hobbes’ view of the world that he presented in his classic work Leviathan. Hobbes’ argued that the natural state of humanity is a war of one against everyone, and thus our life is solitary, poor, brutish and short. Taking that perspective to it’s conclusion meant that only an absolute despot could control the mutually destructive urges of mankind.
There’s no question that we all have some self destructive tendencies but call me an optimist — I think Hobbes was more drama king than philosopher king on this one. That is one dark and depressing lens to view the world through. Even if he turns out to be right I always felt like asking then what’s the point then?
I’m still a John Locke, Thomas Paine Rights of Man sort of guy at heart and I took solace from Rousseu’s view that maybe we are a brutish lot but we brutes can still agree to set aside certain of our brutish tendencies for the sake of community. Signing up for a clan or tribe meant being willing to sacrifice some of our more inappropriate behaviors in the name of public good — that’s the social contract that comes with belonging to something bigger than just ourselves.
Locke was banking on human reason and tolerance to rule the day and thanks to Thomas Jefferson and our fearless Founding Fathers we’ve been cashing checks at that bank ever since under the banner of democracy. It ain’t always perfect but it’s far better than the alternatives.
The point of this stroll down my academic memory lane was merely to say that while Code Enforcement isn’t always the most popular of City activities it is deeply rooted in the concept of what it means to live in a City — we’re willing to concede certain rights, i.e., to leave trash wherever we want and to make as much noise as our inner child wants, for the sake of a public good.
The late Councilman Bill Schultz had a knack for artfully reminding folks that we the people knew what we were getting into when we signed up to be a resident of a City — we accepted the boundaries that we asked our government to uphold on our behalf in the name of the community we call Kent. He acknowledged that Kent was founded on higher expectations for civility and he would offer his sage advice in a friendly and sincere way, saying that if you don’t like boundaries you should live in the county or a township not in the City.
That legacy carries on today in the form of Kent’s public safety and code enforcement functions. They aren’t always the most popular things we do but they are among the most important. With that in mind we just completed our annual review of code enforcement activities for last year. We look at where we have had our most common violations and what patterns have emerged so that we can continually adjust to dynamic community needs.
Here’s the latest summary of Kent’s Code Enforcement Activities: (download a copy)