Pastor, volunteers, report violations of Fort Worth codes
Sep. 28, 2006
NOTE: A UMTV report and photographs are available with this story at http://umns.umc.org.
By John Gordon*
FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) - More than 250 people, representing 69 Fort Worth neighborhood associations, are serving as Code Rangers - volunteers trained by city officials to watch for and report violations of city codes.
The Rev. Dan Flores, pastor of La Trinidad United Methodist Church, is one such volunteer. His church recently sponsored a training course to put more Code Rangers on the streets. Six residents of the church's largely Hispanic neighborhood completed the course.
Sometimes the signs of progress are small. For example, the construction of a new laundry and doughnut shop might not get much notice in many urban neighborhoods. But in the Fort Worth barrios, it's a sign of hope, since a crack house used to be on the property.
"We did have some longtime crack houses, and code enforcement has been very successful in eliminating those houses," Flores said. "And now we see some new development.
"What I like about Code Rangers is it gives power to the average person," he said. "I believe that it could very well be one of the best ideas they've come up with in a very long time."
Flores enjoys driving or walking through the neighborhood, talking to residents or stopping to inspect an overgrown, vacant lot where tree limbs and trash are stacked several feet high on the sidewalk. Code Rangers can report problems anonymously to the city's code-enforcement department, which can follow up with citations and fines for violations.
"I was tired of seeing the illegal dumping," Flores said. "It gives people permission, unfortunately, to tear down a neighborhood, and I just got tired of seeing it."
Rosa Medina, one of the graduates of the Code Rangers class at La Trinidad, said the course was helpful.
"I just wanted to learn what it is to maintain my property and keep the community clean that I live in," she said.
Church member Cesareo Lopez has lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years and is known for having one of the best-manicured lawns. The appearance of someone's home is "a reflection on your person," said Lopez, who has also helped landscape the church property.
"We have a lot of renters in this neighborhood, so they don't worry too much about their property," he said. "For some reason or another, I don't know what it is, they seem to take more pride in their automobiles than they do their yard."
But Lopez said he enjoys the neighborhood and has never considered moving. "The main thing is that it's my own home, and I take great pride in my home," he said.
Shelly Garcia, a code-enforcement officer for the city of Fort Worth, said the Code Rangers program has been a big help in finding problems. After the city sends out notices of possible violations, nearly three-fourths of the problems are corrected.
"It has helped us so much," said Garcia. "The eyes and ears let us know what's going on during the weekends in the neighborhood."
"They go back and share with their neighbors and family members what's allowed and what's not allowed," Garcia said, "helping to realize it can keep their property value up."
And if home is where the heart is, Flores sees a spiritual connection between a well-kept house and contentment.
"Pride and investment of where you live, I think, determines your state of happiness. If you're not happy where you're living, it really does affect your spiritual health, mental health, even physical health," he said.
"Having that sense of pride, whether you're an owner or you're renting, is very important, I think, to your sense of well-being, your shalom."
*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.
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