Dylan Charles, Editor
Home ownership in America is not what it used to be. For a frugal family who pays off their mortgage according to its terms, they still have to look forward to a lifetime of rising property taxes in order to keep a roof over their heads. While I’m sure it would be easy to find a free online tax tool to figure it out each year, the fact still stands that homeowners feel like they’re getting gouged. In many municipalities, property taxes are arbitrarily raised annually by the maximum amount allowed each year by law, rather by an honest assessment of current property values. For some homeowners, this can mean that regardless of what the market is actually doing, their appraisals can and do rise up to 10% each year. Failure to pay property taxes, of course, can result in liens against the home or even foreclosure.
Nowadays, however, there is an even more sinister and backwards threat to American homeowners, a direct assault on life liberty and the pursuit of happiness that truly has no place in a free society.
Enforcement of ordinance codes, which are municipal decrees by local bureaucrats, not laws, and homeowner’s association regulations are leaving far too many honest and hard-working Americans in dire straits, financial ruin and under extreme duress for committing infractions that should not be considered criminal by any stretch of the imagination.
All across America today, we are witnessing the growing tyranny of petty rules and regulations deliberately aimed at raising revenue for government, and in Corpus Christi, Texas, long time residents and homeowners Paul and Sally Hunt have found out the hard way that when the city wants more from you, it takes more.
In 2010, The Hunt family, who had legally operated a plant nursery and gardening business for years on the property where they reside, were called to care for an elderly relative in neighboring state, Louisiana. While caring for Mrs. Hunt’s aging father, a bona fide nonagenarian and former WWII Pilot who suffers from severe dementia, the Corpus Christi code enforcement department apparently trespassed upon their private property and took a ruler to the plants growing in the front yard, then issued a formal complaint for ‘weeds and brush over 12 inches.’
Since the Hunt’s were out of town at the time, the plants in the yard had apparently grown taller than the city manager deemed forgivable, an astonishing 12 inches tall, and now the Hunt’s are facing a whopping $2600 fine for out of control ‘weeds,’ plus an enduring battle with city hall that has had them buried in proceedings for almost 2 years.
Mr. Hunt… “did intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence as an owner or occupant of a lot or parcel of land… permit or allow weeds or brush twelve (12) inches high or higher to grow on said lot or parcel of land, contrary to Section 23-70 of the Code of Ordinances, City of Corpus Christi…” [Source]
The city could have, of course, contacted Mr. Hunt and given him an opportunity to rectify this unlawful grievance, as his mail and phone were forwarded to their temporary residence in Louisiana. Had they done so, Mr. Hunt, who had up until this time of family duress kept his property well-maintained, could have contacted any number of friends or services to meet the city’s code requirements. In fact, Mr. Hunt had already employed several lawn services to do exactly this, however, they were unfortunately unable to meet the city’s standards. In spite of the potential for several amicable and easy solutions to this crisis, the Hunt family was cruelly given zero opportunity to rectify the situation before receiving such stiff fiscal punishment and threats of even harsher penalties.
Even more distressing is the fact that even before this case went to trial, before the Hunt’s were given the opportunity to explain themselves to a civic court judge, and before an official fine had been set, the City of Corpus Christi hired a collections agency to harass the Hunt family, who has excellent credit and carry zero personal debt, for the collection of an arbitrary $2600.
If this sounds way over the top to you and severely heavy handed, that’s because it is, but it gets weirder.
It Gets Weirder
The Hunt family’s ongoing legal nightmare officially began with a letter from the City of Corpus Christi in 2012, which informed Mr. Hunt that the city was filing suit against him for this infraction, which occurred in 2010. Between 2010 when the citation was issued and 2012, the Hunt family was not notified in any manner that they had committed a crime two years prior.
Mr. Hunt contacted the city to find out exactly what was happening, and upon investigation, he was informed by former Corpus Christi City Attorney Carlos Valdez that the City has ‘zero obligation’ to inform citizens of a code violation or a proceedings against them. Mr. Valdez also stated that the City could have a hearing in a case like this without ever notifying the defendant, and if a person did not show up – even if they did not know about the hearing – the City was under legal authority to have them arrested.
This means that the city can fine someone for any number of ordinance violations, never notify them, have a court date without their knowledge or presence, then issue an arrest warrant, all before a citizen has had any notion of wrong-doing.
Furthermore, in a pre-trial hearing on September 24, 2012, Mr. Hunt appealed to the city’s prosecuting attorney, asking the obvious question, ‘what is the definition of a weed?’ The city attorney’s reply was shocking as she leaned forward across the table and whispered, “Uh, well, we don’t have a definition for weeds. No one has ever asked us that question” (her exact words). The attorney then motioned for continuance and set a future trial date.
Tip of the Ice Berg
An Eagle Scout and former Boy Scout leader, environmental professional and orchid farmer who is now semi-retired and licensed by the State of Texas to instruct concealed handgun permit classes, Paul Hunt is perhaps one of the few remaining Americans unwilling to bend over and be bullied by such petty tyrants employed in big government. For this, he has refused to admit guilt and has refused to pay off the city, instead begrudgingly engaging in a long, tiring, expensive, and time-consuming battle with city hall in order to maintain and assert basic property rights in America.
In the process of this struggle, Mr. and Mrs. Hunt have uncovered an alarming pattern of abuse, primarily aimed at the city’s lower income families and property owners. They have discovered hundreds of cases similar to his, where petty fines have been issued to tax-paying citizens and homeowners for nonsensical infractions against an ever-growing list of city codes. In many cases the defendants were never notified until suits had been filed against them, warrants were issued, and collection agencies had begun harassing them.
In their ongoing quest for legal representation in this battle, the Hunt’s have interviewed dozens of attorneys and sadly, none will take the case. The consensus being that homeowners simply cannot win these types of fights in the King’s court and that Corpus Christi Texas, in particular is widely recognized as a lost cause for battling for property rights.
Homeowners across America are feeling the wrath of for-profit local governments filled with bureaucrats who don’t seem concerned with personal liberty and sovereignty, or even with treating the citizenry with fairness or even basic respect. Legally, the City of Corpus, and many others in the US, are openly violating due process, as well as violating the 4th, 5th, and 14th Constitutional Amendments, which are codified to protect Americans from government abuse. Code enforcement is swiftly becoming the most frequently used political tool to generate revenue for local governments and to invade the privacy of people who wish to live in peace in accordance with the law. The Hunt’s are not at all unique in this regard, and are sadly just another honest family caught up in a growing trend of government abuse.
Pattern of Property Rights Abuse
Another egregious case of property rights violations by the city of Corpus Christi was publicized last November concerning a woman who had constructed a fence around her property in violation of city codes. The neighbors complained for its unsightliness and the City finally came out with guns drawn and broke into her home to “look” for other code violations. The owner of the property was hauled off for a psychiatric evaluation and in January 2014 the City had this woman’s fence removed, and she has since been forced to move.
Regarding this case, City of Corpus Christi Assistant City Manager Susan Thorpe said the issue of code enforcement is raising eyebrows, and questions, at City Hall. She stated that many are asking whether state property rights laws hinder the City from handling its toughest code violations, and that the city needs more authority to take down nuisance violations when owners refuse to do it themselves.
In other words, the city is looking for ways to trump State Law when it deems fit, in order to seize sufficient authority to bully its own residents.
Other nationwide cases of abuse of government authority similar to this include:
- 2013 – Massive SWAT raid, aerial surveillance and 10-hour search of the Garden of Eden organic farm in Arlington, Texas
- 2013 – Miami Shores, Florida city uproots couple’s 17 year old garden over new ordinances
- 2012 – Tulsa, Oklahoma city code enforcer cut down woman’s edible and medicinal garden with no cause
- 2012 – Couple forced to remove garden to avoid $500 a day in fines by Orlando, Florida city
- 2013 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania residents being fined for parking in their own driveways
- 2009 – Woman in Nashville, Tennessee fined for leaving her keys in her car in her own driveway
- 2011 – Woman faced 93 days in jail for refusing to remove her edible garden in Oak Park, Michigan
- 2013 – Florida City to evict woman from her paid for home for her ‘off the grid’ lifestyle
The list truly goes on and on, and the growing trend of abuse by municipal governments is showing no signs of abatement. Please add any similar stories to the comments section at the end of this article.
Where Does this Authority Come From? Agenda 21 – The Real Nightmare
So, where do local bureaucrats and un-elected city ‘officials’ derive the authority to treat tax-paying members of the community with such disregard, disrespect and dishonesty?
In this case, the Texas Constitution does not grant local jurisdictions the power to make law, meaning that city ordinances are not laws, therefore, Texas State residents are not legally required to obey such ordinances. However, this appears to be open to legal interpretation at this point, meaning that cities are able to enact and enforce ordinance codes against their populations, who generally do not have the knowledge, representation or resources to combat this.
Additionally, and here’s where the story gets frightening and should cause concern for all property owners in the United States, it appears that in this case these ordinances were adopted verbatim from the United Nations Agenda 21 charter for global sustainable development. Across the United States, and the world, cities and states are adopting, ICC (International Code Council) codes aimed at bringing uniformity to the enforcement of sustainability as decided by regulatory committees acting under the purview of Agenda 21.
It is difficult to find complete information on how exactly these codes and ordinances are introduced to local governments who have no apparent direct connection to the United Nations, yet across this country we are seeing a rise in the adoption of uniform ICC codes. Agenda 21 legislation is directly aimed at forcing all nations onto a standardized legal rulebook established by non-local, non-elected bureaucrats who are asserting the right to govern the world by means of punitive and excessive fines and heavy-handed enforcement practices.
In other words, your local town may be adopting absurdly punitive rules generated by far away ‘authorities,’ then enforcing those rules against tax-paying home owners in blatant disregard for State and Federal law.
Mr. Hunt has put up resistance to this tyranny out of moral principle, and, although this issue has not yet been resolved in court, he has had several court appearances (arraignment hearings, etc.) with more to come, representing a significant and ongoing burden of time, energy, and money… all over plants that grew to 12 inches tall while he was away caring for a sick relative. To add irony to this insult and injury, it is worthwhile to note that the Hunt’s property is next to a railroad track in the industrial sector of town and shares a lengthy fence line with an automotive junkyard, and is half a block from a salvage yard who has long been accused of polluting the air with chemicals and debris.
Should honest, hard-working, tax-paying citizens be forced to into such duress by their local governments because of cosmetic issues such as plants higher than 12 inches? No.
What is your take on this growing problem? Should our government, that we pay for, be permitted to unforgivingly harass and fine people out of their homes for cosmetic violations decreed by city employees?
Please leave your comments below, and if personal liberty and the right to be left alone by over-zealous bureaucrats is important to you, then please take a moment to contact the Corpus Christi City Government on behalf of the Hunt family and voice your outrage against their treatment and the treatment of hundreds of other citizens who are facing outrageous fines and persecution for petty violations of tyrannical code enforcement.
Mr. Paul Hunt is also available for comment or interview and can be contacted by emailing email@example.com.
City of Corpus Christi, Texas – Contact Information
|Nelda Martinez, Mayor||(361) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|David Loeb, @ Large||(361) email@example.com|
|Lillian Riojas, @ Large||(361) 765-1499||LillianRiojas4citycouncil@gmail.com|
|Mark Scott, @ Large||(361) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Kelley Allen, Dist 1||(361) email@example.com|
|Chad McGill, Dist 2||(361) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Colleen McIntyre, Dist 4||(361) 826-3105||ElectColleen@gmail.com|
|Rudy Garza, Jr., Dist 5||(361) email@example.com|
|Ron Olson, City Manager||(361) 826-3220||RonO@cctexas.com|
|Susan Thorpe, ACM||(361) firstname.lastname@example.org|
About the Author
Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist esoteric arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. He is the editor of WakingTimes.com, the proprietor of OffgridOutpost.com, a grateful father and a man who seeks to enlighten others with the power of inspiring information and action. His remarkable journey of self-transformation is a testament to the power of the will and the persistence of the human spirit. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
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