Friday, March 02, 2007

On the record with David Kircher

The following is from an article that appeared in the March 1, 2007 edition of the Ypsilanti Courier.

Editor's Note: The following is a Q and A article with Ypsilanti landlord David Kircher. Kircher, 64, was recently released from prison after posting a $1 million bond. He faces five years in prison for dumping raw sewage into the Huron River. In the following, he talks about the incident that led to his arrest and his experience as a landlord in Ypsilanti.

How long have you been renting property in Ypsilanti and what made you decide to become a landlord in Ypsilanti?
I have been renting property in the area since 1964.

I was the president of the Inter-Cooperative Council, a student-based cooperative housing group. When I was at University of Michigan, we did our own house repairs and I enjoyed that experience, which got me interested in becoming a landlord.

You have a bit more notoriety than other landlords in the city, how do you explain that?
For 30 years, I worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week to subsidize low-income rentals, often from people who had bad credit and who didn't pay. On an eviction, the only defense for non-payment is to claim code violation even if they had to be created.

I have had several successful defenses against the city for code violation cases, including one where the judge ruled the city building code was unconstitutional. The city has held a grudge.

You have been described as a "slumlord" by city officials. How do you respond to that?
It wasn't just notoriety, it was notoriety that I was a bad landlord.

Since I typically rented to a lot of low-income people, who eventually couldn't pay their rent, their defense was not that they didn't have money but that they had sub-standard facilities.

The city has been inspecting properties since 1986, and all of my properties have passed inspections.

Inspectors don't find electrical, plumbing or heating violations. They find housekeeping violations.

The city does not cite tenants for housekeeping violations, they cite the landlord if carpets aren't clean, dishes aren't washed or clothes aren't hung up.

You had owned the Thompson Building since the 1960s, until the Barnes and Barnes group was named the receiver. The Beal Group, who purchased the rights, has revealed plans to restore the building. Who do you think owns the Thompson Building?
The court will decide that. But, I haven't sold it, and I have not been paid for it.

Do you think the building will ever be back in your hands?
It remains to be seen.

You told City Council that you were in favor of a tax freeze for the Thompson Building, why?
Initially, I thought the abatement went with the building. Upon reading the statute further, I didn't think the abatement met the statutory requirements.

What is happening in court about the Thompson Building now?
The case is heading for the State Supreme Court, pending at federal court and sitting in circuit court.

You have been convicted of dumping several thousand gallons of raw sewage into the Huron River at Eastern Highlands, your former property. Your out on bond now, but how do you explain your actions?
We had living-space backup.

We pumped the sewage into a field, not the river. There was an unknown drain in the field.

That drain, on the construction prints, went to the treatment plant.

An unknown amount of sewage, containing no solids because of a screen on the pump, may have gotten into the Huron River. However, only 16,000 gallons went through the water meter.

In my opinion, the judge's interpretation of the statue makes everybody felons. Other statutes specify this was, at most, a misdemeanor.

I have a lawsuit pending against the Township Board.

Are you appealing the verdict against you from Eastern Highlands? On what grounds?
Yes I am appealing the decision.

In order to get 100,000 gallons of sewage, the 20 apartment units would have had to flush their toilets once a minute for 48 consecutive hours.

Tenants would have no time to sleep, no time to eat, no time for the tank to refill. Only the township officials would think that amount was appropriate.

Where is your appeal now?
It's in the process. My lawyer is handling it.

What made you run for City Council last summer?
To let people know the devastating consequences of the failed Water Street project and the impact on the city. To me, this is the city officials putting lipstick on a pig.

How do you feel that went?
Fine. I found the people, unlike the courts and politicians, view taking ones' property without payment as stealing, i.e. legal thievery.

Do you think you'll run for City Council again?
I can more easily get more information out on the Internet, under "Ypsilanti in Denial," my blog. The address is www.ypsilanti-in-denial.blogspot.com/.

1 Comments:

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Brian said...

The Ypsilanti city council and courts relationship with landlords has been acrimonious for as long as I can remember. David Kircher is the icon for witch all the hatred is focused. And that hatred has produced many self defeating actions on the part of the courts and the city council. The city hall k

 

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