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Shappell still pushing for ordinance changes

Eileen Duffy and Maddie Hanna | Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The recent police bust at Turtle Creek apartments has re-illuminated the community relations debate, and student body president Lizzi Shappell has committed her administration to improving the often-strained relationship between Notre Dame students and their neighbors.

Shappell’s focus centers on South Bend’s disorderly house ordinance, which was amended in July of 2005.

Previously, tenants were allowed three reported noise violations before the city of South Bend could send them a notice to abate. Now, the ordinance allows the city to send a notice to abate after just one reported noise violation.

The city also sends the landlord a notice to abate. If the noise violation reoccurs, both the landlord and the tenants get fined – unless the landlord evicts the tenants within 30 days of the receipt of notice of the prohibited conduct.

The amended ordinance is a city-wide law that affects all residents. South Bend Common Council members and Assistant City attorney Ann-Carol Nash deny that it’s targeting students.

Student government took action against the amendment last spring, though, and appeared in front of the Common Council. Then-student body president Dave Baron argued that the notice to abate doesn’t actually give tenants the chance to abate and wanted to change that provision.

“There were mixed reactions [at the meeting],” said Josh Pasquesi, who currently chairs the Senate Community Relations Committee. “Some were good, some were a little more … stubborn.”

The issue was delegated to the Common Council’s own Community Relations committee, Shappell said. On Friday, she and Pasquesi will meet with Karen White, the chair of that committee, along with one of the Common Council’s legal counselors.

Shappell, who remained in contact with members of the Common Council last spring and this summer, said she will have to wait until the meeting to see what the next steps are.

“These are uncharted waters for student government,” she said.

But she did make their goals clear.

“We want to make the punishment fit the crime,” she said. “We believe a fine should occur after the first offense and eviction after the second, in order to more fully reflect the offenses.”

Shappell added that the presence of students on campus again should strengthen the voice of student government and fuel their efforts in the Common Council.

Working “retroactively” to change the ordinance is just half of the Senate two-part initiative to improve community relations, Pasquesi said. The other is an information session with the Notre Dame Law School that, according to Shappell, “works proactively to improve landlord-tenant as well as student-neighbor relationships.”

The program, put on by Senate with the help of Bob Jones of the Notre Dame Legal Aid clinic, debuted last spring. A second information session will probably take place sometime in November.

A consultation program for students who do get in trouble is in the “very beginning stages,” too, Pasquesi said. In theory, the program would allow students to sit down with law students to talk about their options.

In the meantime, Pasquesi suggested students take community relations into their own hands.

“If [students living off-campus] are going to have a party, they should call their neighbors and landlords and say ‘Hey, we’re having some people over. If things get too loud, give us a call and we’ll shut it down,'” he said. “The problem is the disconnect between students and their neighbors in the South Bend community.”