Niagara Gazette

April 27, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: There oughta not be a law

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Law-Breakers – Doug remembers when he was about 9, coming home after school in Youngstown, Ohio, and asking Mom why we keep making new laws. The country ran pretty well with the end of World War II in sight, so why did the government keep “tinkering,” spending all this time and money making up new rules. Didn’t things work pretty well as they were?

Mom changed the subject but now, almost seven decades later, still wonders. Somehow, government can’t resist messing with things.

Two current examples: Regulation of Grand Island’s best party ever, and the mandatory move-over, a textbook example of bad happenings making bad law.

Party time:

Last October, innovative Corey McGowan almost single-handedly put together the initial Taste of Grand Island in our underutilized midtown plaza, while arranging to have an Island eyesore painted into a traffic-stopping mural. It was pure genius.

But hold on there, partner, some of councilmen felt it raised “issues concerning safety and fire hazards,” and drafted legislation to regulate (deep breath, please):

“Any social occasion, business development event, or any other activity occurring on public or private property; having more than 100 persons in attendance, open to the public, conducted outdoors, with or without admission or invitation fee, a sponsorship, or requested donation and held on a one-time or occasional basis including, but not limited to, carnivals, circuses, fairs, bazaars and outdoor shows, horse shows or exhibitions and concerts.”

We think the Constitution says it better:

“Congress shall make no law infringing the right of people peaceably to assemble.”

Actually, the point is moot, as the second Taste of Grand Island, Sept. 28, will occupy public streets and town property. That goes without saying. So don’t.

Road time:

In 2011, a sunrise-blinded motorist struck and killed a State Trooper writing a traffic ticket in Tonawanda. Law-makers sprang to action requiring anybody approaching any such situation to move over a lane (“wherever safe,” whatever that means). Years earlier, Doug had been scolded (but not ticketed) for doing that very thing on 20-A.

Now many states also demand that drivers drop speed to 20 below the posted limit. In free-thinking Texas, some officers take to the road in teams, one flagging down a legitimate speeder, others then lying in wait for the uninformed and citing them for going, for example, 48 in a 60 zone. The fines are staggering.

The original law, like so many hasty legislations, would not have prevented the accident that prompted it. Bad enough to encourage people to change lanes in heavy traffic, which is far more hazardous than most speeds, but yet to exploit this poor Trooper’s death as a revenue source.

So we look skyward and ask again: Do we need all these laws?

Come visit. No rules at our place.

Polly and Doug E-mail pollyndoug@hotmail.com