Picking yourself up as local government pulls you down

irisflowerIn his inaugural address, President Obama says, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” But don’t you dare do it in Modesto, Califonia.

According to the Modesto Bee, Gordon and Lorraine Nicholson of Woodland Iris Gardens were shut down for selling iris flowers from their seven-acre farm because they did not have a permit to sell at retail. Not only that, but since they would have allowed the public to use their restrooms, the restrooms that were perfectly sanitary for the family to use, were now unusable according to Stanislaus County code enforcement. In addition, their Web site was forced to close. I’m surprised they didn’t have to surrender their dog to the county for failing to test his drinking water four times a year and buying an inspection seal.

All that aside, I suspect the public’s concern over sanitary laws is directly proportional to their need to go. If I gotta go, I will make do with a tree on the back 40.

The county code enforcement unit is just enforcing county zoning law and state laws, said Sonya Harrigfeld, director of the county Department of Environmental Resources. Just following orders without an application of common sense.

When Obama talks about this country building itself, he refers to a time when local governments didn’t regulate everything. “I’m sorry, Mr. Joad, but that Ford truck is piled up way too high with your family’s belongings. It is only allowed to be nine inches past the roof of the cab.”

While it is true that life was a bit more dangerous, the going was a bit tougher, they had no WiFi or GPS at least people were free to try to find a better life, to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and remake America without being told to wash their hands in county-inspected water. I’m afraid that as Washington tells us to hope and “act (swiftly and boldly), not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth,” local counties will reach out more swiftly and boldly to beat us back to the status quo.

When I read stories of local government officials wielding their “authority” they only have because we are too weak to challenge them, I think of this video and Seth Godin’s comments. It enrages me that local government officials — like the three talent judges — feel they also have the right to sit back from their lofty, tax-provided perches and judge ordinary folks who are just trying to make a living and thinking outside of the norm. Instead of encouraging innovation, their first instinct is to grab a pitchfork and lead a passe to “kill the beast.”

When in the Course of Human Events.