Fines on the vulnerable:
An investigation into Ontario's exorbitant code enforcement fines
For months, the City of Ontario, Ore. has been imposing extreme fines on homeowners and businesses that don’t obey city directives to cut tall weeds, clear out junked vehicles, or otherwise rid property of garbage and debris.
The idea is to help beautify Ontario, but upon closer examination, the city fails to follow its own rules and standards, resulting in what is essentially a free-for-all for officers to place fines wherever they choose, citations as vague as "attractive nuisance" as acceptable reasons for fines.
The result? a disproportionate impact on poor and Hispanic communities.
With some fines totaling tens of thousands of dollars, in one case $227,500 on one home-owner, both the city and its residents know the homeowners cannot afford to address their debts. But if they don't pay, they'll be removed from their property.
In total, city records show that $976,227 is owed by 83 accounts.
"The 'helping the city' statement is bull***t," Della Warren, one victim of these fines said. "They just want us out, and they know they will succeed."