Borrowing an apocryphal line from "Dragnet," Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer has launched "Just the Facts" on the city's cable television channel, CTV.
The pilot episode, premiered Sept. 11 and scheduled to remain on CTV's regular weekly rotation, focuses on what Pfeiffer calls a "near-epidemic" of abandoned properties in some Columbus neighborhoods. Of 21 properties on one block of Myrtle Avenue in East Linden, "Just the Facts" found four owner-occupied, one renter-occupied, one owned by a church and 15 vacant. On average, the vacant properties owe $5,393 in taxes.
Mark Rutkus, Pfeiffer's executive assistant, says finding "real persons" responsible for vacant properties is no easy task. One Myrtle Avenue property was owned by a now-defunct Florida LLC, another by a 2009 murder victim who had no will. When Pfeiffer's office asked the murdered man's family about taking on the property, Rutkus says, "They actually laughed at the law clerk." Only six "real person" owners were identified.
Pfeiffer wants "Just the Facts" to be "a teaching tool that will explain the issues that we have to deal with and how we try to deal with them." Future episodes may focus on domestic violence and on lawsuits against the city for alleged police misconduct.
CTV programming is on Channel 3 on Insight and Time Warner Cable; on Channel 99 on Warner, WOW and AT&T U-verse; and online at www.ctv.columbus.gov or www.youtube.com/user/cityofcolumbus.
Reprinted from the October 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.