Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (Code Enforcement)

See, that Humanities degree did not go to waste! Argumentum ad ignorantiam is Latin for an "Argument from Ignorance", the classic logical mistake of attempting to prove something by demanding proof that something doesn't exist.

Since today is St. Patrick's Day, I'll offer the following argument.

You can't prove that leprechauns don't exist, therefore they must exist. See the error?

This seems to be the defense offered by the mayor in the Miami Herald article about his house and coding issues. Click here for the article. Alfonso says that he filed the papers but they got lost. Maybe it did happen that way. According to the article " The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust ... did find ``a pattern of poor record keeping,'' claiming that City Clerk Yvonne Hamilton was unable to produce requested information to investigators."

The implication here is that Yvonne Hamilton did not produce the documents owing to poor record keeping, but the far more likely explanation is that the documents did not exist at all, making it impossible to produce them. [In response to the comment below, I want to make it really clear that I don't think for a minute that Ms. Hamilton "lost" or held back the documents. I don't think they were there.] Certainly, that's the simple explanation and as any humanities major can tell you, the simplest explanation is likely the true one. At this point, the onus is on the mayor to produce proof that he filed the required paperwork and that does not seem to be happening.

Code enforcement is a huge issue here from monster McMansions arising on South Treasure Drive that certainly violate the spirit of the code if not the actual law, to overgrown hedges forcing pedestrians to walk in the street, to cars parked on lawns, to additions tacked on without code approval or inspections. It's the next hot issue.

These laws exist for a reason. Partly for the aesthetics but importantly for the safety of the city. If your second story is unsafe, it is not just you at risk. Your neighbors are at risk if it blows off in a hurricane. If your hedges intrude on the sidewalk and make it impassable, pedestrians who include kids, old people and in our town, a Jewish community who must walk on Sabbath to attend services, are forced into the street.

The city is paying attention to the code enforcement. Gus Cruz has started as our Code Enforcement Officer. I met him last night for the first time. He seems like a nice guy. I am hoping he can be a tough one too because it's going to be tough sell from the top down.

Kevin Vericker


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