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Editorial: City housing judge will use new powers to deal with violators across the county

Sometimes justice never gets served. This time promises to be different for lead-paint violations. For the first time, the city’s Housing Court will handle cases of lead-paint violations throughout the county. The change should close a loophole that allowed violators outside the City of Buffalo to face an administrative hearing rather than a judge.

Children in this region suffer a higher than normal rate of lead poisoning – higher than in Flint, Mich., the city now infamous for high levels of lead in the city’s water supply.

That city’s crisis caused municipalities across the country to look closely at the threat of lead poisoning. Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz promised a more intense focus on lead poisoning, pushing a $3.75 million initiative over the next five years to hire inspectors and buy equipment.

Four additional lead-paint inspectors for both city and suburban enforcement efforts have been trained and started inspections this month.

Suburban and rural violations had been overseen by the Erie County Department of Health through an administrative hearing process that, as reported in The News, has weaker enforcement powers.

Now, City Housing Court Judge Patrick M. Carney, who previously handled only Buffalo cases involving lead-paint violations, will take on cases throughout Erie County. An agreement with the county gives Carney, an acting Erie County Court judge, the additional powers.

Carney promises a big change, starting with hauling violators before the intimidating figure of a black-robed judge. He will also deliver a consistent message across the county on the dangers posed by lead paint.

The move to the court system should result in more cases being heard. The county has held only a handful of administrative hearings each year for lead violations outside of Buffalo.

Too much lead in the body can cause lasting growth and developmental problems in children. It can also cause severe damage in adults. Landlords and homeowners need to understand the facts and make whatever repairs are necessary for the safety of themselves and others.

Carney points out that the goal isn’t to punish violators. He wants to prod property owners to eliminate the possibility of lead poisoning. It’s good to know Carney is on the case.

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