You get to have some fun, too. You can make your own nominations.
Whoopee! Isn't that Democratic?
Or is it a lynch mob mentality?
No Notice or Opportunity to Be Heard
King Edwin has worked up a lather over slumlords who won't follow the law, but has no trouble trampling all over the Constitution. Specifically, he's ignoring the due process clause, which is interpreted to mean notice and an opportunity to be heard.
Does a landlord get any kind of notice before he's listed in the city's Hall of Shame? Nah. In fact, the city's first victim, and he is a victim, was taken by surprise. He was ambushed without no hearing.
Allentown's web page does list criteria considered before this modern equivalent of tarring and feathering someone. You can see them here. But they are nebulous, to say the least. Vague tenant and neighbor complaints are actually encouraged, which could lead to all sorts of phony baloney from a disgruntled former tenant or a jealous neighbor. "Police issues," "fire issues" and "health issues" but once again, there are no specifics. In fact, the city also uses "etc." to cover them. How the hell can a landlord be on notice of a health issue qualified like that? If someone catches a cold at a rented property, the landlord can be publicly excoriated. The city also looks at delinquent fees, but provides no guidance there, either. One year? Or is one month enough?
Joyce Marin, Allentown's Director of Community and Economic Development, in a puff blog designed to promote this domestic form of waterboarding as "good news" for Allentown, doesn't really answer how someone qualifies for this dishonor. It must be a secret.
Potential For Abuse
Aside from a total failure to provide basic due process, King Edwin's Hall of Shame can be perverted to punish political enemies. Don't think the King would do that? Think again.
Last year, King Edwin told a Morning Call reporter that a certain civic activist, who was giving HRH a rough time, was nothing more than a slumlord. Now this landlord has never even been cited for a code violation. But he is a political enemy. Imagine how easy it would be to trump up a few testimonials by some disgruntled former tenants or a "neighbor." Next thing you know, this person can find himself a member of the Hall of Shame.
I expressed these concerns to Ms. Marin. She refuses to publish any criticism of this modern form of torture, but allows comments suggesting that slumlords are mostly McCain supporters. She did email me that, after checking with her staff, she learned that HRH has no involvement in the selection of these properties.
The city's own web page makes clear the mayor is directly involved. All the King's men "choose a city landlord for recommendation to the mayor for selection as an esteemed member of the 'Landlord Hall of Shame.'" The mayor decides.
Reputation an Inherent Pennsylvania Right
In addition to the due process clause, King Ed's "Hall of Shame" violates the "inherent and indefeasible" right of every person to protect his reputation. That right is enumerated in the first sentence of Pennsylvania's Constitution.
The federal and state constitution must be followed, even in the Kingdom of Renaissance Square. King Ed is right to be upset over greedy landlords who thumb their noses at laws designed to protect all of us, but that gives him no excuse to ignore basic constitutional safeguards. They apply to all of us. Even slumlords.