Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Help Me Howard: Code enforcement
Dealing with life's everyday hassles are not easy for a young healthy person. Now try doing it when you are 81, all your friends are dead and you are not physically well. Add to it government agencies that treat everyone the same whether you are sick or healthy, young or old. Is it fair or legal? Well, it's why one woman called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- In her prime, Ruth Kraynik was a tough, energetic lady. When her husband got sick, she took care of him till he died. After Andrew devastated her home, she just went to work.
Ruth Kraynik: "I had to rebuild my house all by myself. Roof was gone, windows gone, start from scratch."
That was then, this is now.
Ruth Kraynik: "I never paid attention to it until I had it, it's called DVT, deep vein thrombosis, and it can come on you like it did in my case, with no warning."
Today, the 81-year-old can't move around the home that she owned for 42 years without a walker. She can't drive, and her '96 Thunderbird sits in her front yard. It doesn't move, but it doesn't go unnoticed.
Ruth Kraynik: "I think if I had this at another time, I would have fainted dead away."
Ruth's shocker came after a neighbor complained to the town of Cutler Bay code enforcement, then left this notice on her door giving her 15 days to trim and maintain her swale and get a current tag for her car or...
Ruth Kraynik: "To submit to a daily lean of $250 against my property."
Ruth's yard man disappeared. Finding a new one is easy, but getting a tag and insurance for a car she won't use is not.
Ruth Kraynik: "I live on only a little over $12,000 a year social security, and that's all."
The $250 a day fines would force Ruth out of her home. Her spare money goes to pay a lady to go to the grocery store and run little errands for her. She can't put the car in the garage cause it's filled with memorabilia, and she refuses to sell her car because she wants her brother in New Jersey to have it when she dies.
Ruth Kraynik: "I have a will drawn up, and the only two things of value I have to leave him is the house and the car, and that's the way I want it to be."
When you are 81 you can be set in your ways, but at her age, she doesn't have the energy or the money to fight the City of Cutler Bay over a swale and a tag.
Ruth Kraynik: "Lay off and let me concentrate on getting well. That's all I want is just not to have to use my walker."
But sadly government agencies don't lay off people. Threats and fines are part of what they do.
Ruth Kraynik: "Not one person ever steps forward to help me. When I think of all the families I helped in my years as a psychologist, it seems a little unfair that there's not some payback for me when I need it the most."
Well, let's start with the legal issues, Howard. Can a government agency come after an elderly lady like this?
Howard Finkelstein: "This law was enacted to stop people from having junked cars up on blocks in their front yard that devalue everyone's property. Unfortunately, the law also covers the tag of an elderly person who cant drive her car anymore. The law does not distinguish between the age, race or economic situation of the person."
When I spoke to Cutler Bay's town manager, he surprised me. Surprised me because of how polite and helpful he was. Steven Alexander told me if the code enforcement officers could not see the tag that would be acceptable.
So Johnnie Uzerak, a Seven News photographer, and I got a car cover for the Thunderbird. Within a few minutes, the car was taken care of, the expired tag could not be seen. Cutler Bay was satisfied. Ruth got a new yard man, her yard is clean, and her citation has disappeared.
Howard Finkelstein: "These are tough times for everyone, especially the elderly and disabled. There are thousands of them, and there are millions of good honest people who could help. Instead of complaining about your neighbor, offer to help them."
Ruth can now relax. It was such a simple thing for us to do. Sadly, it meant so much to Ruth. Sadly, cause all her friends have passed away and, at 81, she has no one to turn to.
Ruth Kraynik: "What a relief. I have enough other worries with my health without worry extra for that. I owe you a debt, Patrick. You really came to my assistance at a time I needed you most cause I really didn't know what do. I don't have anybody to help me."
Patrick Fraser: "Glad we could help, and one more note about Cutler Bay. After we helped Ruth out, the code enforcement officer who cited her called and left a message thanking us for taking care of her. That is the first time a government official ever did that after we helped someone. I was impressed."
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