In this world of neighborhood covenants, where aesthetic-obsessed homeowners deprive grandmas of swamp coolers, City Councilman Tom Gallagher's yard is a fossil.
The house at 1724 Armstrong Ave. is a throwback to the days when you could simply toss your trash out the back door, sprinkle your lawn with car parts and start a dandelion farm out front.
This is his land, gosh darn it!
Well, actually, it's not. Gallagher rents. And judging by the five Code Enforcement violations issued to his address since 2004, he's not the perfect tenant.
Officer Jeff Robinson listed "Misc. wood, metal, auto parts, tires, and signs" in his June case report on the Gallagher house.
In a report from a February 2006 violation, Officer MaryJane Lujan states, "Rental property is a mess with overflowing garbage containers and some scattered garbage again REMOVE ALL Garbage."
Another Lujan report from October 2005 states, "Entire front & side yards full of scattered garbage, bags of garbage, at least 9-10 containers not emptied, diapers, food, milk bottles, and misc. R & D [rubble and debris] in entire yard."
No doubt Gallagher's filthy ways have caused problems for the current and previous owner of the house. The homeowner is held responsible for the condition of the property.
On an unannounced visit Monday to his home, the Indy asked Gallagher to explain his repeat violations. Standing shirtless at his front door, Gallagher said the problems with his property stem from problems with his 17-year-old son, Tommy.
"The yard's his baby," Gallagher said, pointing a tattooed arm at his husky son. "Obviously my son's definition of clean is not in line with other people's."
Faced with his father's accusations, Tommy was defensive and said he was busy with the laundry. He blamed the mess on his 9-year-old sister.
The Gallaghers also frequently watch their 3-year-old grandson, whose toys are scattered across the yard.
Gallagher's wife suffered a stroke in January, but Gallagher was able to continue campaigning and win re-election in April to a second term on City Council. He concedes the family's hard times are "no excuse."
Councilman Jerry Heimlicher says elected officials should expect their mistakes to be exposed by the press.
"I think we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard," Heimlicher says. "We have to be conscious (that) anything and everything we do is subject to public scrutiny."
Gallagher's lack of good housekeeping has soured his relationship with neighbors. Next-door neighbor Mark Stanley says he's fed-up with Gallagher's mess.
"(Gallagher) said, "I want to turn this into a world-class city,'" Stanley said dryly. "He ought to start with his yard."
Stanley recently built a 6-foot-tall wood fence to separate his property from the Gallagher residence. Also, Stanley said he and his family have complained to Code Enforcement about the Gallagher house multiple times.
The Stanleys aren't fancy people. Mark Stanley retired from construction due to disability. His wife is a factory worker. The Stanley house has its fair share of random machinery, but the yard is neat and decorated with flowerbeds. The lawn is healthy. The trash is picked up.
It's the norm for this working-class neighborhood (though a few houses down the street are in disrepair).
Stanley says he doesn't expect the Gallaghers to take up landscaping as a hobby. He just wants them to mow their lawn and pick up their trash.
"He hasn't had (his trash) picked up in three weeks," Stanley said, turning his nose at the stench.
Bestway Disposal confirmed it had been picking up trash for Gallagher since early 2006, but a representative said service at the house was halted from the beginning of June through June 25. Not that you had to take the company's word for it.
Monday, there were a total of seven full trashcans outside the house, and a couple empty ones within view. A pizza box and an empty can of Big K soda rested in the gutter. And that's just the beginning of the councilman's problems.
Gallagher's backyard was littered with political signs, garbage, tires, toys and a car hood. An older-model car was wedged into a half-open garage door; a second garage door was ajar, revealing an overflow of storage.
Behind a buffer of long purple flowers, Gallagher's front yard held a bounty of toys, junk and weeds.
One neighbor, who did not wish to be identified, said, "I think it's a shame the way the yard is. I'm 93 years old and I do my yard better."
Other neighbors said that Gallagher's problems don't end at his property line.
"There is a disregard for city ordinances and laws within his own family," Kenn Eichler, who lives across the street, said.
Eichler noted that Gallagher's children were "shooting off fireworks, things that fly in the air" on the street this week, shortly before the Fourth of July.
Eichler didn't see Gallagher on the street with the children, but noticed the councilman's car parked in the driveway. Fireworks are illegal in Colorado Springs.
The neighbors share one more opinion: This is Gallagher's fault, not his wife's. Gallagher's other half seems well-liked in the neighborhood.
"(Gallagher's wife) had a stroke. She's not well. She's on a walker. She's always been the one to do the yard," neighbor Skipper Byran said.
Neighbors agree: Gallagher has never been seen doing yard work.
After being confronted with the problem, Gallagher seemed moved. As the front-porch meeting came to an end, Tommy came running out the door dressed to do yard work. He gripped the lawn-mower handle with purpose.
Gallagher lamented that it had to take a reporter coming to the home to motivate his son to clean the yard.
But Tommy's resolve may not have been long-lasting.
As the Gallagher house disappeared in the rearview mirror, Tommy had already ducked back into the house. firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's note: The Stanley family mentioned in the story is not related to the reporter.
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