New Ordinance Proposal-A Dangerous Precedent

Started by ellen on Wednesday, November 14 2018, 01:00 pm ·

At the City Council meeting on October 15, 2018, at the end of the meeting, during the “discussion” phase (not during the “new business” phase), Councilperson Greg Claypool stated that trash cans are being left out on the street sometimes until Wednesday, or are being put out “days before” trash pickup. He stated, “this makes the city look like crap.” He wants an ordinance with specific times to place trash cans out at the curb and also to have them removed from the curb. He wants the ordinance to give the police chief the authority to give warnings or citations for violation. The mayor told the city’s attorney to draft an ordinance to this effect. There was no official motion (and, so, no second to a motion). Greg stated this idea, and the mayor just told the attorney to draft an ordinance.

I had intended to make my opposition to this ordinance known at the next City Council meeting, however, when I received the proposed ordinance via email today, I could wait no longer. Here is the gist of the proposed ordinance:

“Whereas the City of Woodlawn Park has a legitimate governmental interest in keeping residential yards, streets and public rights-of-way free from garbage, trash, recycling and yard waste containers and uncontained garbage, trash, recycling and yard waste, which cause visual pollution and impede the maintenance of rights-of-way and the flow of foot traffic thereon, and whereas said containers and uncontained garbage, trash, recycling and yard waste placed in residential yards, streets and public rights-of-way prior to or remaining after the hereinafter designated times serve no useful purpose; now, therefore, be it ordained by the City of Woodlawn Park: Section 1: It shall be unlawful for any container or receptacle for receiving garbage, trash, recycling material or yard waste, and any uncontained garbage, trash, recycling material or yard waste to be placed in the front yard of a residence or on or in any street, or in or on any public right-of-way or place except after 7:00 p.m. on the day preceding the collection day and said container or receptacle shall be removed no later than 7:00 p.m. on the collection day.”

I believe that such an ordinance is (a) unnecessary and (b) would create a bad precedent. First and foremost, this has nothing to do with the health and safety of the city’s residents. Second, if someone is putting their garbage cans out early, or not taking them in on Monday evening, there may be a perfectly legitimate reason. For example, a lady who lives near my house is drastically ill, and she depends on someone else to bring in her garbage cans. However, that person became injured, so there was a delay. That is just one example, but there are many reasons why people are either delayed in bringing in their cans, or that they put them out early. Another example would be that someone’s religious beliefs prevent them from doing any type of work on Sunday. Perhaps you will be out of town on Monday, so you can’t bring in your cans until the next day.

I, for one, do not want someone to tell me what time I must put out or bring in my garbage cans. This “first read” ordinance says that you can’t put the cans out until 7pm on Sunday. Well, for one thing, during the winter months, it is dark before 7pm. (I have a feeling that they put the 7pm time knowing that someone would object, so then they would change it back to 6pm, which is what they talked about at the meeting. However, in the winter, it is still dark before 6pm). It doesn’t really matter what time they propose; it is still impeding on my personal rights. If I am out on Sunday afternoon doing errands, when I get home from those errands, I am going to want to take my garbage out, so that I can go inside and stay inside in my warm jammies for the rest of the day/evening. Maybe there is bad weather forecast for the evening, so I want to get my garbage out before it starts snowing or raining. Further, some people do not get home from work until after 7pm and would not be able to make that arbitrary deadline.

There are no health and safety reasons for requiring people to put out/take in garbage cans at specific times. It is simply an aesthetic issue. Here’s why this sets a dangerous precedent: what happens when the City Council decides that red front doors are ugly, so they devise an ordinance which mandates that all front doors must be painted black? What happens when (as was proposed several years ago, but never mandated) they decide that my modern, stainless steel mailbox is ugly, so they create an ordinance that everyone has to have one particular kind of mailbox? You think tulips “look like crap”; okay, let’s make an ordinance against tulips. It’s ridiculous. This is the beginning of the taking away of personal liberty. Woodlawn Park is a city; it is not a homeowner’s association. Do you really want your city government to have the power to make your aesthetic design choices? What’s next? Now, granted, that is not what they are proposing. Still, I believe that, once you are on this precipice, it is only a matter of time before the governing body of the city begins to go over the line from what is good for the health and safety of its residents to micro-managing your lives to make the city appear “attractive,” based on that body’s definition of the term.

If you do not want the city to enact an ordinance telling you when you can and cannot set out your trash cans, then I implore you to contact your council people to let them know your feelings on this subject. The next City Council meeting is this coming Monday, November 19. I hope that there is a strong showing of citizens who are opposed to this totally unnecessary infringement upon our personal liberties.

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