Growing pains

Richard Assaley’s misadventures with the city of Reno, as detailed in last week’s news story, “Yard work” (RN&R, June 28), illustrated several of the aspects that symbolize life in the Biggest Little City in the World.First is the obvious one: Automated bureaucracy allows the humanity of both the customer and public servant to become secondary to the bureaucracy. That does not embody the “government by the people, for the people” standard we hope to live by in this country.

If things had been done correctly by the city of Reno, Assaley would have been notified by a human being that his property was going to be inspected by the Community Development Department with an explanation of why he was being singled out in a city that routinely allows properties, like the King’s Inn or innumerable apartment buildings near the core of the city, to look like slums. Instead, he was sent a certified letter after the inspection, told to fix his yard, but told only vaguely how to come into compliance with the city’s capricious rules.

Nor was he able to speak with code enforcement officer Sally Lovitt, who signed the threatening certified letter, even after legal action was taken (with assistance by a county legal program). In fact, he didn’t meet Lovitt until she arrived for a follow-up inspection after most of the work in his yard was finished.

And none of this goes to say that Sally Lovitt is the bad guy in the dispute. She’s plainly doing an unpopular job, probably overburdened, and probably is not the type of person who would target an 82-year-old vet—who may have contracted cancer in the service of this country—and widower. But she’s doing a job that serves a bureaucracy rather than the people it was created to serve.

But, here’s the second thing about living in the Biggest Little City in the World. When members of the community heard about Assaley’s plight, they stepped in, providing skills and transportation to help a man who plainly deserved any help that the community could offer.

It wasn’t just people who came to Assaley’s assistance. It was businesses like Tholl Fence, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s Hardware, K-mart, Raley’s Market and Home Depot who leapt at the opportunity to help out someone who may not have even been a customer. Again, contrast this with the city of Reno, which has taken Assaley’s tax dollars for more than a decade.

You get the idea. Sheila Parker, the good Samaritan who helped organize the heroes who came to an elderly man’s rescue, deserves some kind of an award. Heck, Richard Assaley deserves an award for letting his story be told, despite the fact it made public his unfortunate circumstances.

It’s a pity the city of Reno doesn’t have an automated method for rewarding the people who make life in this city better than life in some country that believes the government is more important than the people it governs.