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Ordinance changes focus of proposal

Maddie Hanna | Monday, February 27, 2006

Six Notre Dame student government representatives will speak at tonight’s South Bend Common Council meeting about an issue associated this year with rumors and reality, evictions and emotions – community relations.

Despite student government’s opposition to the July 25, 2005 amendment of the South Bend Public Nuisance Ordinance – a change that has resulted in several student evictions as well as multiple fines and notices to abate and- student body president Dave Baron said tonight’s presentation would not be delivered in a “combative, conflictual or even complaining” tone.

The main focus, he said, will be to present the student perspective on the amendment and appeal for the Council’s consideration of a resolution passed in Student Senate on Nov. 30, 2005.

The Senate resolution recommends changing South Bend’s system from the current notice to abate and fine after the tenant’s first violation, a response that Baron believes encourages landlords to evict tenants before they have had a chance to abate the activity.

Instead, the resolution recommends one of two options – after the second violation, fining both the landlord and tenant an amount based on what measures were taken to stop the problem after it first occurred, or allowing landlords to pass their fine onto tenants.

The tension between students and South Bend has been represented in the back-and-forth debate between Baron and Assistant City Attorney Ann-Carol Nash since the summer. While neither side has shifted positions, Baron said student government’s appearance at today’s Common Council meeting will be important in continuing to push for a student voice.

“Our attendance at the Council over the summer was important,” Baron said, referring to his, off-campus president Matt Wormington and several senators’ presence at June and July meetings discussing the proposed amendment. “It was a learning experience for us as student leaders, to see how they went about discussing these matters. This seems like a natural step to take … to give our perspective on the way it has played out for students.”

The six presenters will be student body vice president Lizzi Shappell, Community Relations committee member Shawn Finlen. Community Relations committee chair Nick Guzman, Judicial Council president James Leito, Wormington and Baron.

“Hopefully, they [Common Council members] will engage us beyond the meeting,” Baron said. “That’s, I think, the best-case scenario.”

But Baron also hopes the presentation will help a new tradition take root- to have student government play a “participatory role” in South Bend.

“This would be the beginning of student participation at Common Council meetings, which I think is a more feasible goal,” he said.

And the fight won’t end if the Common Council doesn’t consider Senate’s resolution, Baron said.

“It would not be the end step at all,” Baron said. “At the same time we’ve been reaching out to the Council, we’ve reached out to landlords as well … to let them know they don’t have to evict [student tenants].”

Baron said the presentation would also emphasize the efforts student government has taken to promote a healthier relationship between the Notre Dame and South Bend communities, such as the partnership with Transpo and community relations letter to the student body passed by Senate on Nov. 9 that “addressed frankly there are some elitist attitudes” among Notre Dame students.

“[We want] to show them we’re taking some initiative in our own ranks,” Baron said.