HEATHER EVANS cried out of frustration Tuesday night, and it made me think: It just shouldn't be this hard for taxpaying residents to get help - real help - from this city.
But Evans, who's been dealing with a tax-delinquent neighbor whose neglected property is damaging her East Passyunk Avenue home and becoming increasingly dangerous, is still getting nowhere.
Not because Licenses & Inspections isn't following policy and procedures. But because those procedures are little more than a hamster wheel of violations and warnings, violations and warnings that fix nothing.
So why don't we give it a rest with all those top-10 lists we love to flog about Philly's best cheesesteak or pop-up garden. You know how a city really survives and thrives? It takes care of its citizens, it does whatever it has to do to make sure it keeps responsible law-abiding residents.
"I just want to leave," Evans said.
I don't do well with tears. Never have, especially the kind that come from someone so frustrated by fighting the good fight that she is on the verge of giving up. It makes me crazy. It should make all of us crazy, because it's unnecessary and unacceptable and a recipe to push people out.
As I mentioned in a previous column, Evans' trouble began a few years ago when issues with her neighbor's property - dangling downspout, waterlogged shared wall, loose exterior bricks - started to affect her house. I've tried to reach out to her neighbor several times with no success.
The structural engineer who came out in response to an insurance claim broke it down: Her neighbor's house is not only affecting the condition of her home, but it's also outright dangerous.
Evans "must continue to be vigilant with the city to make sure that the city forces proper repairs . . . before someone gets hurt and/or before additional property, cars, etc. are damaged," the report said.
She's more than done her part. Problem is, L&I inspectors who have eyeballed the property don't agree with the engineer's crew who crawled all over her home to check out the damage; they say it's not dangerous. And so she's stuck in a never-ending cycle of violations, warnings, more violations, more warnings . . .
Things got even more ridiculous recently when an L&I inspector found that her neighbor's DIY repairs to his downspout were in compliance. And then the very next day, after Evans complained to anyone and everyone about the makeshift nonsense that passed for compliance, an inspector changed course and issued another violation. L&I spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson said the open violations on the property - for the downspout and for the facade/exterior issues - are being moved into Municipal Court on an expedited basis.
That's great, but the initial finding that the downspout was in compliance delayed a hearing for which she's been waiting months. It was an opportunity to lay out her two-year ordeal of dealing with a neighbor whose neglect is affecting the home that she loves, and that she now wishes she could walk away from.
"But who is going to buy this house with the damage?" she asks. Exactly. Does Philadelphia really need another abandoned home?
Here's the thing. Evans reluctantly went to L&I only after her neighbor just ignored her pleas to fix his home. It's not an easy call to complain about a neighbor you share a wall with. It's an even harder call to walk away - but Evans is close to doing it.
That can't happen. We spend a lot of time and money catering to tourists and developers, but a city's survival and growth - the real kind that doesn't make top 10 lists - depends on attracting and keeping city residents who are making an investment. And whose commitment to the city should be repaid.
Evans should be able to feel safe in her home. She should be able to enjoy the home she's lovingly cared for. City Councilman Jim Kenney's office has stepped in and is trying to help her out. But there are tons of Heather Evanses out there, on the verge of walking away from a city that doesn't appreciate them.
How about aiming to be a top-10 city for doing all it can to hold on to responsible, taxpaying homeowners? That's a list we should be striving for.
On Twitter: @NotesFromHel