Housing Court in Cleveland...

Just got off the phone with Michele Johnson - 2:30 am.
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She spent the day in Cleveland OH, with Buffalo City Court Judge Nowak and über City Inspector, Tracy Krug. Cleveland City Housing Court Judge Pianka invited the crew to Cleveland inpart based on the strength of Michele's work as Broadway/Fillmore Housing Court Liaison and the production of Flipped - done in conjunction with Marc Odien from WNYMedia.com - and of course Judge Nowak's reforms here in Buffalo, NY.

In Cleveland - about the same size as Buffalo - 11 people are employed in Housing Court. Here we have liaisons, in Cleveland they have Code Enforcers. Guess what, they are paid! - 30K+ Michele does her Broadway Fillmore work as a volunteer. She learned that the City of Cleveland has 100 Building Inspectors compared to the 44 in Buffalo. And Judge Pianka, he has two magistrates!

Michele learned that Cleveland City Court judges run on a six year cycle, compared to our ten. Housing Court candidates campaign for the position and once elected stay the full six years. Not so here, where City Court judges have often used Housing Court as a springboard to higher office and only recently with Judge Nowak, stay in office long enough to build real change and more effective strategies.

In addition, all Housing Court violators in Cleveland are subjected to a program called "House Arrest". Here the guilty party is responsible for paying $30/day for an ankle braclet and must stay in the house or building where the violations were found. The alternative? Jail, and a longer sentence.

City inspectors in Cleveland, according to Michele, write on the average four new cases/day. Tracy was asked by a number of inspectors - and wowed them, according to Michele, with his response - how many cases he can inspect/day. He said, "...about fifteen." This is why Tracy is so effective. Find out just how many cases Tracy Krug has written for Housing Court - Tracy's court cases - all 259!

Make sure to check out Cleveland's Housing Court on-line. The working metaphor. Cleveland is a puzzle. We are all working to solve it!

Thanks Michele for pushing and encouraging all of us to reach beyond the present and help make Buffalo a better place to live and work. Ditto Tracy and Judge Nowak.

Michele just started blogging. Check it out.

update...3pm...Checking Cleveland's The Plain Dealer this morning, found these two articles that will be of some interest.
Tempers boiled over when Pianka [Cleveland's Housing Court Judge] described for council how criminal Housing Court cases have plummeted. He said his criminal case docket has never been smaller.
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Dick Kern said...

This is invaluable information.

Ironically, as Housing Court Judge Nowak Michelle Johnson, & Inspector Tracy Krug traveled to Cleveland to show "Flipped", eBay lists 15 Buffalo 'flips', while Cleveland has none listed.

In contrast, Youngstown has 15 'flips' listed on eBay. It would be interesting to know what Youngstown is doing about their flipping epidemic.

One correction, however. Cleveland is significantly bigger than Buffalo, but at about half its peak population, shrinking as dramatically as Buffalo. Cleveland's population is about 450,000 (down from 915,000 in 19500). Buffalo's is about 280,000 (down from 560,000 in 1950)

fix buffalo said...


Thanks for the pop. update. My bad. Just did the math based on C's 450K population. One inspector for every 4500 residents. Buffalo, one inspector for every 6,363 people.

A more accurate comparison might be to factor the number of parcels and not people.

This opens a whole new front. I agree. Let's see what other NE cities are doing and do a more comprehensive review.

Kevin Ramsey said...

As a supplement to this article, which may be viewed by defendants in Cleveland Housing Court, free help is available for any faced with prosecution in Cleveland Housing Court. The Cleveland Housing Court Assistance Program's website is http://www.housingourt.org.