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    5/29/2008
    James Wigderson: The Nanny Muncipality

    On Wednesday I received a call from my wife, the lovely Doreen from Waukesha, to tell me there were two police cars outside our Waukesha home. They were there to stop “the can guy”, the person in our neighborhood that goes around on garbage pick-up day to raid the recycling bins for aluminum cans. Not one, but two police cars.

    The policeman came to the door and asked my wife if he had been given permission to take our cans. My wife is enough of an anarchist to say, “yes,” even if we didn’t. However, he has asked in the past when he saw me dragging the garbage to the curb and we have always told him to help himself. After all, I think Waukesha will survive if a few dollars worth of aluminum never makes it onto the truck. After the officers left, my wife pulled in our recyclables until next week when the can guy returns.

    I understand that it’s against a city ordinance to take the aluminum cans from the recycling bins. But seriously, whom was this guy harming, and why would anyone feel the need to call the police?

    It was just a few years ago, shortly after I started blogging, when Waukesha’s Common Council passed an ordinance banning the use of outdoor firepits after midnight. It was sandwiched between permits for trailers attached to cars legally parked on city streets overnight and lighting requirements for commercial and industrial development. I called my alderman to complain. He told me that the ordinance could’ve been a lot worse, but this was the compromise that passed unanimously. I couldn’t believe it. He then asked me why I was so concerned about the issue, and I told him, “It’s just one more way for this city to infringe upon my life in a way they had no business doing.”

    The reason the ordinance even came up is because one woman – one – complained to the city about her neighbor’s firepit and she wanted them all banned. Apparently her neighbor’s firepit bothered her asthma when she stepped outside her home to smoke a cigarette. So the city passed an ordinance that does nothing to change her situation which really would have been better improved by the alderman who first took her complaint telling her, “Why don’t you give up smoking instead?”

    But these ordinances are passing all around the country. California is even looking to ban homes being built with indoor fireplaces. Other communities debate the effects of outdoor charcoal grilling of food. Meanwhile some little suburban neighborhoods fight over the proper size of displays of the American flag, or whether basketball hoops should be allowed in the driveway.

    We have become a nation of busy-bodies, too busy worrying about what the next guy is doing. People wonder why the environmental movement is so strong. It’s because environmentalism appeals to the petty dictator lurking inside all of us.

    Today is the 272nd anniversary of the birth of Patrick Henry, the Virginia patriot who famously challenged, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” I’m not going to claim that he would have been as strident over outdoor firepits and picking aluminum cans. But maybe today we could re-dedicate ourselves to allowing our neighbors a little more liberty, and spare ourselves the tiny deaths of worrying about everybody else.

    James Wigderson blogs regularly at Wigderson’s Library and Pub.


    COMMENTS

    Yep, it's good to see that Waukesha has completely squashed all drug dealing, drunk driving, and theft.

    Why is it so hard for members of a City Council to figure out that they need to prioritize their efforts for the "greater good" rather than reflexively writing ordinances to placate every INDIVIDUAL request.

    Memo to the council: DO THE BIG THINGS! Public Safety, Emergency Services, Infrastructure, Sanitation. The homeowners are your CUSTOMERS, not the problem!

    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    Jeff Riedl (Thu May 29 07:09:03 2008)

    James, I agree that we are a nanny society in many ways. However, your link between environmentalism and the examples of nannyism is misplaced. The California indoor fireplace ban for example is for indoor woodburning fireplaces which in parts of California are a major source of airpollution. As far as I know, none of the examples you point to have anything to do with environmentalism. The City's interest in recycling can be tied to their interest in reducing landfill volume and the income from sale of recyclable materials. Waukesha's ban on firepits after midnight has nothing to do with environmentalism since I presume there isn't an air pollution problem in Waukesha caused by firepits. Basketball hoops and other regulations have to do with zoning or covenants and if related to environmentalism is indirect. The nannyism you refer to as a problem is only made worse when the real issues are clouded by an unfounded rant against a nebulous group.
    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    dave allen (Thu May 29 08:13:55 2008)

    Dave, I think you exaggerate by calling two sentences (re environmentalism) a "rant". He's just using it as an EXAMPLE of the "petty dictator in us".

    If you don't like his example, I'll give you a different one, if that'll make you feel better: How about a city dude that moves into a country township, and proceeds to complain about the neighbor kids' 4-H project (pigs) even though he's upwind of them. Who makes an official complaint to the town board, claiming that 2 pigs constitutes a "pig farm". Who complains about another neighbor's dog, even though there are no leash laws and the dog isn't a nuisance to anybody (such as chasing livestock).

    There, does that make you happier?
    PS, the township had the common sense NOT to listen to this wanna-be dictator.

    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    emily matthews (Thu May 29 20:35:08 2008)

    Emily,
    Firstly my phrase regarding ranting refers to the overall tenancy that many people or groups have to attack another group based upon politics of philosophy not the facts. Your pig example is an example of referring to what is quite possibly a zoning issue and not an issue of "environmentalism appealing to the petty dictator inside us" . If you don't want a neighbor with pigs, is your complaint because you're an "environmentalist" or because the odor or noise etc. is incompatible with the neighborhood (for example pigs in a plated subdivision). If I burn my leaves instead of composting them and for a week you have a cloud of leaf smoke hanging all over your property and you complain are you complaining because you are an "environmentalist" or because you are not willing to put up with my polluting the air you need to breathe. The original post had nothing about "environmentalism" except to try to associate all sorts of things with that term. Keep to the facts in a situation then when you do have a complaint it will be on target.

    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    dave allen (Fri May 30 08:48:33 2008)

    Dave, I can't believe you're trying to hide behind "zoning"! GET THIS: people DO raise animals-including pigs- in the country. And the township sided with the pig owners as there WAS no "zoning issue". City Dude was just trying to impose his Inner Dictator on the township!

    City Dude also objected to vegetable gardens and composting! Again, an "environmental" way to live, as you're not paying for some mass producer to burn 100s of gallons of fuel to ship produce across the country, or for fuel to be used to make artificial chemical fertilizers. Face it, there ARE Inner Dictators in us, and for some it is expressed in the "environmental" movement, for others in other causes.

    I believe the main point James was trying to make was that it's not the GOVT'S business to interfere so minutely in people's lives; that we indeed have become a nation of busybodies. What about areas where they have mandated how many children that can be "allowed" to share a bedroom? I have a friend with 9 kids, and a three-bed house. She'd be outlawed in that community! Another friend, newly divorced, was "not ALLOWED" to rent a one-bed apt, even though her daughter was only around 4 at the time, and could easily have shared her bedroom.

    What about THIS example: there is a "country subdivision" in our county that we fleetingly considered buying into, many years ago. As soon as we found out they BANNED clotheslines, that was it!

    I hang my clothes out 6 months of the year, DO YOU? You can hardly get more "environmental" than that! Yet the Inner Dictators that set up the subdivision, banned clotheslines. And 20 years after it was set up, most of the plots are still empty! (We don't like Inner Dictators- there's a joke that never fails to get a laugh amongst country folks: "I'm from the govt, and I'm here to help")

    What about the busybodies who made such a ruckus that now nobody in our county can put up a wind tower!? We might have done so, if not for them!

    It's time to send all these wanna-be Dictators packing. But nobody will.


    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    EMILY MATTHEWS (Fri May 30 09:22:35 2008)

    Definitely something to worry about. Next thing you know, the government will think that they can tell you who you can and can't marry. Oh wait...
    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    Nick (Fri May 30 12:51:08 2008)

    ...or better yet, they'll tell you that you can't allow the use of a legal substance on your own privately-owned property. Ooops! They already do that, too.
    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    Joey Monson (Fri May 30 17:14:59 2008)

    Emily,
    If I read between the lines I believe we are both saying the same thing. You prove it if in fact the pig person simply didn't like pigs in the countryside. Your closeline point also proves my point. It isn't environmentalists who are making these sometime absurd proposals it is people who have another agenda. So lets look at the facts in each case and agree whether the case is example of nannyism. But, going back to the original post to somehow say that environmental dictators are behind these items is nonsense. I am a developer (are you surprised?) and I know how weird things can get sometime when a project is planned. But I don't see conspiracies where there are none.

    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    dave allen (Fri May 30 20:02:14 2008)

    Dave, I'm not surprised, I'm shocked. Please read the posts under "Not in my 1073 Webster's".
    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    emily matthews (Sat May 31 14:03:49 2008)

    Emily, Don't know where to find the ...1073 post you refer to.
    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    dave allen (Sun Jun 01 22:51:25 2008)

    OK, I mis-typed! It's 1973. It's the one JUST BELOW this blog on the list of blogs. And I'm still reeling from your confession...
    fox cities news, appleton, wi
    emily matthews (Mon Jun 02 10:35:08 2008)




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