Saturday, November 8, 2014


Please take time to read this story so you will be aware of the decisions our local government makes. The government works “for the people” and sometimes I am not sure they realize that.

“Sonny” is from Cambodia. I don’t know the story of how he arrived in Liberty, but I do know he is a very hard worker and he prides himself in taking care of business. And I know he is a very likeable family man and, like you and me, he is trying to earn a living and provide for those depending on him.

A few years ago Sonny bought the building my family owned on the road going into the city park. He moved his donut shop into part of the building and began making arrangements to open a seafood restaurant in the part that housed Athletes Choice.

The effort to open that restaurant has been tangled up with the City of Liberty’s inspection and permitting department now for well over a year. I am not sure what the problem is since several different people have had restaurants there but Sonny’s sign that let’s people driving by know seafood and steak is available has been up for many months. Currently, he is still dealing with City of Liberty and will not be able to open until he has some kind of success.

Next time you drive by, or next time you are trying to think of where else you can eat besides the same ole places, you might wonder “why”….. why is it taking so long for this experienced Cambodian restauranteer to open his doors and serve the public? What can possibly be taking so long?

You can eliminate the possibility that the owner ran out of money or is refusing to spend the money it takes to open. That is not the case. A simple answer is “I do not know.” But I have tried to help the situation twice because I thought it might be a communication problem. Sonny speaks English, but it is not his first language. After my second unsuccessful attempt to help, I have changed my question from “what needs to be done to get the restaurant open” to “what kind of city do I live in.”

From information related to me by all sides I know the city does not like the fact Sonny’s carpenters moved walls and did other work without them pulling a permit. I knew that after my first visit with the City weeks ago. I was told then that there was no real problem, Sonny just needed to hire someone to provide the city with plans to the building and he would be back on track.

Weeks and weeks later, Sonny approached me and asked me to speak to the parties involved to see what else he needed to do to open. He told me to talk to Louis Bergman, the County Engineer.

Louis was very nice and very helpful. He told me he drafted the plans to the building and it should be all the City of Liberty needs. When I told him they were still not allowing Sonny to open, he looked disgusted and gave me a much fuller evaluation of the situation.

County Engineer Bergman told me he has done a great deal of work in Cleveland and is familiar with the new woman that deals with these types of matters for the City. He told me she was run out of Cleveland because she was so difficult to deal with and that she had many problems with Hispanics in particular. I shook his hand and thanked him for any help he had given Sonny in dealing with all of this. He wished me luck because “the City will not return my calls.”

Next, at the City of Liberty department I had visited weeks ago, I asked for someone who could help me on this matter. A woman appeared and indicated she could help me. I told her I was a friend of Sonny’s and wanted to help if there was a communication problem. She assured me there was no communication problem. I told her I figured there was because the County Engineer said no one would return his calls. After a few minutes of visiting with this city employee, I could tell I was getting nowhere. She kept referring me to the code book. I asked for a written list of what Sonny had left to do to be in compliance and be able to open. I knew he had spent a great deal of money and expected the list to be small. She was not rude, but she was obviously not going to help Sonny. She refused to give me a list and referred me to her supervisor on the matter.

A few minutes later I found myself in the Assistant City Manager’s office trying to help my Cambodian friend resolve issues that were stymied in the halls of our city government. Sonny pays about $5,000 a year in taxes on that building alone and no telling how much in sales taxes on his donut business. When the Assistant City Manager sat down and asked me very kindly what he could do to help me, I couldn’t help but think what it must have been like all these months to be from a foreign country, speaking a different language, and trying to deal with whatever it was the problem is.

So after the gentlemen told me that the City would not even consider giving Sonny a list of what else was left to do (“because they could be libel if it does not agree with the code”), I asked him to consider what it must be like to be a foreigner in this situation. I had hoped liberty was represented by people that were more willing to go the extra mile and be the kind of public servant I assumed they already were. Instead, I got this nonsense by the people that would inspect the building that they could not provide a lsit of what shortcomings they had found that would be inspected the next time they were called out.

I was left with a handful of questions. What kind of City do we have? What kind of government contorts their job into that of creating roadblocks to taxpayers instead of being helpful? Who do these people think they work for? This Assistant City Manager said he was insulted when I intimated to him that Sonny might file a lawsuit thinking he being was treated fairly. I thought Sonny was the victim and I was giving this man a heads up, but I found out he was the one being treated poorly.

And that I was the one mistreating him! I apologized to him, but I can’t help but wonder if he realizes the climate he is in. There are many people who are tired around here of feeling like the taxpayer has become the dog that is wagged by the public servant. There are plenty of people who would like to see this eating place open. There are many taxpayers who don’t like to hear these kinds of stories.

I hope Sonny will find someone at the City that will go out of their way to help him open his restaurant. No laws should be broken, but if the Mayor rents out a seafood restaurant to people in town, I expect Sonny to receive every bit as cooperation much as they get. He should be treated like someone who helps pay the bills, not like a troublemaker.


Anonymous said...

Not surprising at all. I find it amusing that so many claim such 'growth' is coming to this are while on the other hand willfully prevent big box stores from moving in (and small business it seems). Dayton flat out refused to go for Wla-Mart. Yet pass $87 million bonds based on future taxation.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Picketville!