Saturday, June 13, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 29

Bar Boom on Washington Ave.
KHOU reports on the growing number of bars along Washington Avenue and the concerns being raised by residents of the area (HT: blogHouston). One resident is quoted:

We do want development. We want to see businesses come, but the right kind of businesses.

It’s too close to our houses. It’s too close to residential.

Residents have taken their complaints to the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, which licenses bars. As we all know, if we don't like something we should to run to government and demand that they shut down the offending activity.

There is a valid remedy disputes of this nature--nuisance laws. While the bars have a right to operate, they do not have a right to interfere with the rights of their neighbors. If they are creating loud noises late into the night or attracting excessive traffic, nuisance laws can be used to address these issues. Residents do not need to be running to the state to solve their problems.

A New York State of Mind
The New York state Senate turned into a circus this week when Republicans seized control with the help of two Democrats. The Chronicle offers details of this fiasco in an editorial:

The Democrats came unhinged. Smith [majority leader Malcolm Smith] stopped twiddling with his Blackberry but refused to recognize that he’d been ousted as majority leader. He and his secretary of the Senate locked the doors to the Capitol — literally — and refused to hand over the keys to the Senate.

New Yorkers must be proud. After Eliot Spitzer turned the state into a laughingstock, the Senate seems to be trying to do him one better.

Sign Enforcement is Arbitrary
Jim Purtee, owner of Houston Balloons & Promotions, is suing the city over its enforcement of a 1993 ordinance. The ordinance limited the number of days "attention-getting devices" could be displayed. Purtee filed a lawsuit in 2006 when his customers began getting ticketed for violating the ordinance.

The trial started on Wednesday, and the Chronicle reports:

When questioned Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore, the city’s sign administrator agreed that the enforcement of standards for balloons and other attention getters has been “arbitrary.”

This means that city officials are enforcing an arbitrary law arbitrarily. As Ayn Rand wrote:

That which cannot be formulated into an objective law, cannot be made the subject of legislation-not in a free country, not if we are to have “a government of laws and not of men.” An undefineable law is not a law, but merely a license for some men to rule others.
It is bad enough that city officials are enforcing the law at their whim. But city council now wants to expand this tyranny and strengthen the sign ordinance. KHOU reports that council is preparing changes to impose more restrictions on signs:
Under the changes, no new “electronic message boards” would be allowed within 150 feet of a residence. Most HISD schools would fall under this umbrella.

Broadly speaking, the new sign ordinance rules would limit the size and number of so-called on premise signs, which a business puts up on its property to advertise itself.

Council member Sue Lovell, who heads the "quality of life" commission, said:
We want people to be safe, we don’t want people to be distracted.

Ms. Lovell seems to think that if her motive is safety, then she can walk all over property rights. I want people to be safe too, but without freedom, safety is a non-issue. Besides, we really aren't very safe when government officials can arbitrarily seize our property or restrict our actions.

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