Luke Skrable, the Southwest Little Rock code enforcement gadfly whose crusade to clean up his neighborhood was featured in the March 17 issue of the Arkansas Times, claims that he is living proof that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Or, in Skrable’s case, the tickets.
Almost simultaneous with the appearance of the article, Skrable said he was issued a warning by city zoning for a trailer parked in his driveway — even though there were several similar trailers within a few blocks of his house.
Then, in mid-April, a city code enforcement officer paid a visit to Skrable’s house, issuing a notice of non-compliance for several items, from the black plastic he used to keep weeds out of his flowerbeds to stalks of poke sallet that had sprung up along his back fence. On April 27, code enforcement returned and issued a citation to appear in the city’s Environmental Court for a number of violations, in many cases ignoring — Skrable said — the changes and improvements he had made to try and meet the city code and refusing to note clear violations at other houses in sight of his yard
Code enforcement supervisor Barbara Hyatt said there was no retaliation against Skrable, and that her department would never retaliate against a critic. Hyatt said that it was simply a case of a code enforcement officer seeing legitimate violations in Skrable’s yard through a chain link fence while checking out a complaint in his neighbor’s yard — a complaint Skrable himself called in.
“The code officers are told — in order to try to take care of the problem before it becomes a complaint — when they go to a site, to look on both sides and across the street,” Hyatt said. She added that within “two or three days” of Skrable being cited, code enforcement issued 11 citations for non-compliance to other residents in Skrable’s neighborhood. Hyatt said she didn’t know whether any of Skrable’s immediate neighbors received warnings or tickets.
For Skrable, no matter how the city wants to disguise it, he sees the tickets he received as retaliation for speaking out against lax code enforcement in his area. Skrable said that once the code enforcement officer came back to his yard and began to write tickets, he knew the fix was in. “Everything was ‘a violation,’ ” Skrable said, adding that the officer never told him exactly what he was being ticketed for. He sees it as a scheme to stifle those with concerns.
“If my city officials want to play junior high games, let them amuse themselves,” Skrable said. “I’m not a politician, just a homeowner watching his investment go down in value. The local government can’t seem to see the situation, and then [they] choose to enforce every code in the book against me just to show they’re on the ball.”
Meanwhile, he said, piles of trash continue to sit on the curb in his neighborhood for weeks — the problem that led him to try fighting City Hall in the first place.
Last Wednesday in Environmental Court, Skrable pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. A trial has been set for June 6.