PART 3:   Another inspection; another 4th Amendment violation
COLUMBIA, Mo (Series) 5/6/17 -- Columbia's Office of Sustainability and Energy and Environment Commission (EEC) are proposing a new rental energy efficiency ordinance based on everything their activist members detest: non-transparency; false promises; conflicts of interest; and so much ethical gray area the law should be DOA -- dead on arrival.

The Columbia City Council received the groups' report in February, recommending new "energy efficiency" requirements for single family and duplex rental properties.
The law is unfair: Apartments -- some notorious for wasting energy -- are exempt. So are commercial properties, owner-occupied homes, and other potential energy wasters.

It also violates the Constitution's 4th Amendment, mandating a warrantless "energy efficiency" inspection that costs an average $373.
The application for rental unit compliance -- required of all rental property owners -- would have to include an "Energy Score" of 7 or higher, or an "Efficiency Score" of 70% or higher.

To achieve this score, an energy efficiency auditor could demand "upgrades" to appliances, HVAC systems, insulation, windows, and any other systems that effect energy usage. The cost of such upgrades, especially with older properties, can be staggering.

The proposed law was written non-transparently, without input from the people most impacted: property managers and renters. During a recent Council hearing, Mayor Brian Treece asked Council member Mike Trapp if landlords were consulted before the two agencies made the recommendations.
“They were engaged in the process,” Trapp said. “I know the landlords participated. They did a forum and I know there was outreach to the landlord community.”

Mr. Trapp was wrong.

EEC meeting minutes show no tenants or landlords involved in the proposed law's year-long planning. The Office of Sustainability held one forum about it in late November 2016, but moderators including city sustainability director Barbara Buffaloe refused to discuss it!

Some characterized the forum as a "sham cheerleading effort". Others insisted City Hall's utilities (water, electric, trash, sewer) counteract conservation with rate increases that more than offset savings.
Finally, Buffaloe started a side business, the "Columbia Sustainability Fund" (CSF), positioned to take advantage of demand for energy efficiency products and services the new ordinance will create.

Buffaloe listed CSF's business address at Columbia City Hall (701 E. Broadway. See photos.)
Her business likely violates City of Columbia ordinance 19-41: Conflicts of Interest, which mandates that city officials not benefit from regulations they write or enforce.

Though the new energy efficiency ordinance should be DOA, it still has a pulse. City administrators seem determined to squeeze property managers, especially small ones, perhaps in service to the hedge fund types they've bent over backward accomodating, now stuck in an overbuilt, reduced-student market.

"An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

NEXT: The Grandaddy of all Constitutional Violations: Columbia's Rental Unit Compliance Law. My story. The National Scene. The Courts Weigh In.

PART 1: CoMo rental unit compliance fees soar, up 2-300% since 2012