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Kramer prepared to oppose bill

Karen Langley | Tuesday, September 4, 2007

South Bend landlord Mark Kramer – who rents to 600 Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students – says he is prepared to fight the proposed party permit ordinance he believes will be voted into effect by the Common Council.

“In the event the ordinance passes, I’m prepared to take legal steps to challenge that,” he said. “I have secured an attorney to investigate and go forward with this.”

Kramer said the proposed ordinance, which would apply to the tenants of his 80 houses, is unfairly targeted at students and would not solve the problem of out-of-control student parties.

“By and large, the students really feel like they’re being treated unfairly and targeted,” he said. “They feel alienated from South Bend.”

The proposed ordinance would require residents of boarding houses – buildings in which two or more unrelated people live – to file an application for a permit 10 days before hosting a party at which more than 25 people would have access to alcohol. Failure to register such a gathering would be punishable by a $500 fine, with a $1,000 fine for any subsequent violation.

An alternate proposal from the mayor’s office would require residents who meet those criteria to simply notify police of such a party 24 hours in advance.

But, according to Kramer, the city’s current disorderly house ordinance provides adequate legislation to control disruptive parties.

“I think [the proposed ordinance is] a feel-good ordinance for the community,” he said. “My personal opinion is the ordinance they have in place is adequate enough and heavy-handed enough.”

Last week, Capt. Phil Trent, a spokesman for the South Bend Police Department, said the enforcement of the ordinance might not be an effective way to regulate large gatherings.

Patrols which operate by responding to calls will have little time to search the streets for 25-person parties, he said.

Kramer has called for off-campus students to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election. He says he plans to hold voter registration drives, which could bring about a more responsive tone toward the positive contributions made by students, he said.

Kramer was critical of Common Council members in favor of the ordinance.

“I think those folks are slapping students in the face,” he said.

Just two years ago, Kramer criticized another action of the Common Council.

He advocated against revisions to the city’s disorderly house ordinance made in July 2005. The amendment dropped the number of noise violations required to send a notice to abate from three to one. Under the amendment, landlords also received a notice to abate, but were spared from fines if they evicted the offending tenants within 30 days.

That change – designed to send a strong message to people hosting rowdy parties, Council members said – pushed Turtle Creek to evict six students. Kramer, on the other hand, insisted he wouldn’t evict anyone for noise violations and warned against alienating off-campus students from the community.

“Where should the priority really be?” Kramer told The Observer in October 2005. “I don’t think we should be worrying about a little alcohol at a party after a football game.”

In the meantime, Kramer said, he will try to ease town-gown relations within his neighborhoods by hosting block parties.

He plans to host such an event on Sept. 9 for residents of the 900-1000 block of Notre Dame Avenue, he said.

“[Students and neighbors] can get together in a relaxed setting without alcohol and get to know each other and hopefully gain a respect for each other and each other’s concerns,” he said.

If the event succeeds, he said, he will bring it to the other neighborhoods in which he rents.

“It can’t hurt,” he said. “If it’s successful … we can ease tensions and take a proactive and positive approach rather than the negative approach the council is taking.”

Still, Kramer admitted student actions have played a part in the genesis of the party permit controversy.

“If students were a little better behaved and a little more considerate to [their] neighbors, we wouldn’t have this happening here,” he said.

If the ordinance passes, many students will still choose to move off campus, Kramer said.

“Even with the ordinance, you still have more freedom living off campus,” he said.