Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chalk it up to stupid government officials.


Mom scheduled to serve community service hours for chalk vandalism charge Posted: Jul 31, 2012 11:37 AM CDT Updated: Aug 05, 2012 11:37 AM CDT

A judge found enough evidence to convict a Richmond mom who is charged with vandalism, but he's delaying a final disposition until she performs community service hours.

29-year-old Susan Mortensen allowed her daughter to draw on rocks on Belle Isle with chalk.

Mortensen will now serve 50 hours of community service in order for the judge to dismiss her charge.

In court, NBC12 learned a little more about the confrontation between Mortensen and Officer Stacy Rogers, who saw her daughter writing on the rocks.

Outside the courthouse, people support Susan Mortensen with their own chalk on the sidewalk. However, in court, the officer who reprimanded her back in March says she responded with an attitude and curse words.

"I don't think I should comment on that," said Mortensen after the trial. I agree that the outcome is something I would agree with and I thought it would help as far as doing community service."

Mortensen has since then apologized. She's agreed to complete 50 hours of community service through the James River Park System.

Mortensen will have to paint about 200 boundary posts west and east of the Boulevard Bridge. Before she even starts, she'll have to scrape off the old paint and remove surrounding weeds. It's vital to finish the project before the weather gets too cold for the paint to stick.

The parks manager says he'd like to set a date before Thanksgiving. Mortensen's supporters say they're still upset she was charged for letting her daughter draw on the rocks. Police and park leaders say chalk is the same as graffiti.

"There's no way to compare two," Meg McLain with Virginia Cop Block. "When you spray paint something, it's pretty much there. But when you chalk something, it rains, it's gone. You'll never know."

"It is all the same thing," said James River Park Systems Park Manager, Ralph White. "A couple of weeks ago, I was covering over pornographic drawings done in chalk. It doesn't matter what the medium is. It's offensive."

Even though both sides share their point-of-views, they agreed on a common ground to help beautify the James River Park System.

Back in 2010, court documents show the same officer issued Mortensen a summons for destruction of property on Belle Isle.

Mortensen is scheduled to start her community service this week.

Friday, July 27, 2012

No Dog For You!


Kid's Hot Dog Stand Shut Down by City Officials Before It Even Opens

hot dog standThis summer, 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski wanted to make some money to help out his disabled parents—his mom has epilepsy and his dad has multiple sclerosis. So he decided to open a hot dog stand. He saved $1,200, mostly money made by mowing lawns and shoveling snow. He checked with the city to make sure he didn't need any licenses or permits, even going to city hall in person with his mom. And then he bought a cart. (Yep, that's hot dog's from Nathan's, for those who are keeping score at home.)

He arrived to set up shop on his first day and 10 minutes later, a zoning official arrived to shut him down. The problem: The cart, which is in the parking lot of a sporting goods store, is on the edge of official downtown commercial district of Holland, Michigan. The city bans food carts in that area in order to minimize competition for the eight tax-paying restaurants a couple of blocks away.

As it happens, I've been to Holland. It's a lovely town, but not exactly a booming metropolis. And frankly (ha!), after an evening of Blue Motorcycles Butch's Dry Dock, a hot dog would really have hit the spot. The city says it is willing to work with Nathan, but keeping food carts out of the small, walkable downtown area is pretty much the same thing as banning food carts altogether. Nathan and his family obviously know that: The hot dog cart is now for sale.

The Mackinac Center has made a nice little video about the ridiculous story:

Rockwall Fire Department able to respond despite lack of paid fighters


Rockwall Herald-Banner (Texas)

July 26, 2012

Rockwall Fire Department able to respond despite lack of paid fighters

Herald-Banner Staff
ROCKWALL — An investigation by the Herald-Banner into the city of Rockwall’s Fire Department found that although it in not fully paid department it is completely functional.

Former Austin Fire Department Captain Mike Allbritant prompted the investigation when he found out the four stations within the city of Rockwall had only one paid firefighter on duty at any given time.

“It’s dangerous in itself having one firefighter for an entire station,” he said.

The on-duty firefighter also works as an engine operator according to Rockwall Fire Chief Mark Poindexter.

He said in fully paid departments there are typically three to four firefighters for per engine and if the station has a ladder engine, three to four for its operation as well.

Poindexter said nine shift drivers split the operation of the four stations 24 hours a day.

“We utilize volunteers to supplement the paid staff,” he said. “They do go work and with that we have 24 firefighters on duty at one time.”

Poindexter said the goal of the fire department is to respond to a structure fire with one engine and 24 firefighters within seven minutes of receiving a call. Given the current makeup of the department he said they achieve this goal 90 percent of the time in districts that have a station and 60 percent of the time in those that do not.

He said the average number of firefighters on the scene dipped to 18.5 last year according to Poindexter, which is a little lower than the 24 per incident he is looking for.

“If we need to we will ask the council for more money,” he said. “Three years ago when volunteer rates dropped low we were given money to hire nine people.”

Despite the recent drop, Poindexter said he still thinks a mostly volunteer department is the best choice for the city. He said the current makeup saves the city $7,398,988 a year and creating a fully paid fire department would require a special election to approve a 22 cent tax increase within the city.

“If we are achieving our goals, why not save the tax payers money,” Poindexter said.

Allbritant disagrees with Poindexter. He said Rockwall will not be able to maintain this methodology regarding fire fighting.

“Rockwall being a progressive, cannot stay with this forever,” he said.

Rockwall Mayor David Sweet said the council is looking into multiple options regarding the fire department.

“We have several different proposals in front of us not just for year, but for next as well,” he said.

For the moment Rockwall is still a mostly volunteer fire department according to Sweet, but he said the city and the department are always recruiting possible firefighters.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What about Tomacco? Mmmm...Tomacco....


I Say Tomato, You Say No

Why does it seem like local government officials are competing with each other to see who can implement the most obnoxious rules against people in their respective communities growing food?

With summer now upon us, gardening season is in full swing. And that can only mean it’s time for local government officials around the country to try to outdo one another when it comes to preventing everyday people from growing fruit and vegetables in their own yards.

If the proposition that squads of busybody, anti-gardening bureaucrats are waiting in your thicket, ready to pounce on the pecks of peppers you might have tended in your yard sounds like hyperbole, then you clearly have not been paying attention to the news. In years.

Last summer an Oak Park, Michigan, woman faced more than three months in jail for keeping a well-manicured edible garden in her front yard. Oak Park officials charged Julie Bass with a misdemeanor because in their opinion Ms. Bass’s tomatoes and vegetables did not meet the city’s definition of “suitable live plant material.” The city eventually dropped the charges.

Last month, Newton, Massachusetts officials brought the hammer down on a town resident whose handsome hanging tomato garden ran afoul of a city building ordinance prohibiting the construction of “swing sets, swimming pools, or sheds” in a front yard.

“It’s a straight-out violation of the ordinance,’’ said John Lojek, the city’s commissioner of inspectional services, at the time. (If "inspectional" is a typo, then it is one that appears to be repeated all over officialdom in Massachusetts.)

Faced with the prospect of dismantling the structure, the resident, Eli Katzoff, sought a path to legitimacy.

But Lojek stood firm. “There’s no path for them.’’

Lojek was right--in practice though not in principle. Katzoff was forced to move his plants to the grounds of a nearby theological seminary.

The Boston Globe characterized the move as a sign of “[d]ivine intervention.”

The seminary’s president took a slightly more secular (and less sanguine) view, calling this a case of “the down side of zoning.” And, he wondered, “Who can be against tomatoes?”

Bureaucrats, that’s who.

While Oak Park and Newton are wealthy suburban enclaves, urban and even rural home gardeners are not immune to the flowering cruelty of local bureaucrats.

Take Denise Morrison of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Last summer Tulsa code enforcement officers went onto her land and literally ripped out Morrison’s edible garden.

According to reports, the ordinance at issue stated that “plants can't be over 12-inches tall unless they're used for human consumption.”

Morrison, who was unemployed at the time, consumed the wide variety of plants she grew—including “lemon, stevia, garlic chives, grapes, strawberries, apple mint, spearmint, peppermint, an apple tree, walnut tree, pecan trees and much more.”

Last week Morrison fought back, filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city.

Meanwhile, an Illinois woman is currently fighting county officials who won't permit her or her neighbors keep farm animals on their… farmland.

Kelli Otting’s garden on her one-acre property hasn’t run afoul of the county, but her wish to raise chickens and goats on her farm—located in a rural, unincorporated part of downstate Illinois—has met opposition from the county land commission.

While Otting’s struggles raise the sometimes controversial issue of backyard chickens clucking in urban areas, the general hurdles faced by Otting, Morrison, Katzoff, and Bass—and by thousands of others around the country who simply want to grow their own food—can be blamed on local zoning boards run amok.

Zoning is intended—say its proponents—to prevent nuisances from arising. But when zoning itself becomes the nuisance, and when it gets in the way of people using their own property how they’d like--and exactly no one is made better off, save for the bureaucrats who make and enforce the ordinances--then that piece of zoning must fall.

Decades before First Lady Michelle Obama planted a highly visible garden on the White House back lawn, then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s efforts to plant a similar garden met with resistance from her own husband’s Department of Agriculture, which Time magazine reported (subscription) at the time was “skeptical of amateur farmers.”

That attitude—having spread like a weed through zoning and code-enforcement rules that stretch across America—is one worth combating.

Baylen J. Linnekin, a lawyer, is executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates in favor of food freedom—the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook, eat, and drink the foods of our own choosing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

“Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato”



Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter


Posted on June 19, 2012 at 10:58 PM


DALLAS — It was Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and Chris Moore — riding southbound on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas in a pack of 50 to 100 sport bikes — was pulled over while traveling below the speed limit.

"I didn't expect that at all," Moore said.

Officers were out in force that weekend, working to prevent another shutdown of a Dallas freeway like the one on Memorial Day weekend 2011 that ultimately led to three arrests.

So why was Moore pulled over?

Dallas Deputy Sheriff James Westbrook said he wanted to see what was on Moore's camera.

MOORE: "Was I doing something wrong? What am I being pulled over for?"

WESTBROOK: "The whole group of you guys."

MOORE: "No. I was not, individually. How can you pull me over?"

WESTBROOK: "The reason you're being pulled over is because I'm gonna take your camera and we're gonna use it as evidence of the crimes that have been committed by other bikers."

MOORE: "I have not committed any crimes, and you cannot take my personal property from me, sir."

WESTBOOK: "That's fine. Need to see your license and registration."

Moore's lawyer, Hunter Biederman, reviewed the recording.

"Here this officer decided to just go rouge and pull over the first guy he saw with a helmet camera on," he said.

The way Moore sees it, it's not illegal to have a video camera. But when the Deputy returned, he arrested Moore for having a concealed license plate.

WESTBROOK: "You're under arrest for your license plate being obstructed. Place your hands."

MOORE: "Are you kidding me, dude?"

WESTBROOK: "Place your hands behind your back."

As Moore continued to protest, the deputy lost his patience.

MOORE: "Why'd you pull me over in the first place?"

WESTBROOK: "Have a seat, okay?"

MOORE: "Sir. Sir. What you did to me was not right. You know it."

WESTBROOK: "I'm going to ask you one more time to have a seat."

MOORE: "That's f'ed up. Where's my bike going?"

WESTBROOK: "Sit down.I'm telling you to chill out."

Westbrook is then seen on the video shoving Moore into his squad car and slamming the door forcefully.

In a written statement, the Sheriff's Office said Moore was stopped because of a concealed plate. The video was confiscated and turned over to the gang unit as evidence.

Moore's bike was impounded; then he spent eight hours in jail — all of it, he says, on a charge that was made up after the fact.

"Completely shocked at their behavior," he said.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I have met the enemy and he is us.


The Arrogance of Politicians

Posted by John Stossel | May 31, 2012

New York City proposes to make it illegal to sell containers of soft drinks, sweetened coffee, and some fruit juices that are larger than 16 oz.

Give me a break. This infringes on my right to make my own contract with a merchant. It also doesn’t work. Americans have gotten fatter since the government launched its “war” on obesity.

Mayor Bloomberg has already pointlessly and intrusively banned trans fats, required restaurants to post dietary information, and outlawed food donations to homeless people because “the city can’t access their salt, fat or fiber content.”

The Food Police say that they just want to help us make good decisions. But no, they want much more than that. Government is force. Politicians want to force us to make good decisions.

Where does it stop? Why not replace hotdogs with Tofu Dogs and red meat with turkey? Once government pays for our health care, won’t they soon require exercise police to come into our homes to make us do pushups?

In a free society, I should be able to determine my own diet.

Mayor Bloomberg indulges the fatal conceit that politicians can and should force us to become thin. I say, No They Can’t! And they shouldn’t try.