Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Law and Order

           There actually once was a time when police officers walked our neighborhoods, talking to people, and keeping order and peace between neighbors by discouraging disorderly conduct of all sorts.  You can see it in old movies, set before the 1970’s.  That was when they took to cars and stepped up traffic enforcement, searching for illegal drugs at every opportunity and trying to rack up “big” arrests—those with large amounts confiscated and heavy penalties attached.
Most other laws target disorderly and criminal conduct; their enforcement creates and preserves order, which is the aim of law.  Most laws, dealing with things like murder, theft and assault, have been around a long time, though people endlessly invent new ways to enrage their fellows, so new ones must occasionally be written.  Cities, where many people live close to each other, have special codes of their own to prevent people from annoying their neighbors, either by disorderly conduct, or disorderly neglect.
The battle for civilization has always included a war on weeds, which are plants growing where they are not wanted.  Apparently, before the late 50’s, people were pretty good about keeping up their properties, because Grants Pass didn’t have to write a nuisance code regarding weeds until 1960.  The advent of television seems to have started the trend of people living inside their houses and neglecting their yards. 
Our code forbids depositing or allowing any trash to lie on properties; depositing grass clippings or other detritus on pavements; allowing mature (flowering) or seeding weeds or any plants growing more than 6 inches long on pavements.  It is written by gardeners for non-gardeners, telling one the best and easiest time to pull most weeds: as they flower, and before they seed.
Sometime in the last 30 years or so, police in Grants Pass stopped enforcing landscape maintenance codes and firemen started getting people to cut their weeds before fire season.  Since about 2004, the city combined police with the fire department as Public Safety, and passed code enforcement to Code Enforcement, soon calling them “Community Service” officers (CSOs).  Safety hazards have multiplied as too few CSOs don’t try too hard to enforce only the safety hazard codes, and we had a forest fire last year right off 7th Street, our main drag through town.
We need to get our police and public servants to enforce laws that create order rather than those that create disorder.  The first problem is to get them to see the problem.  People ignore problems that are not theirs to fix, to the point of not seeing them at all.
There are 4 petitions on for Grants Pass, Josephine County, Oregon, and the United States, asking our leaders to order every one of our public servants to pick up litter from public properties for ½ hour every day after their lunch breaks.  I have local paper petitions at my protests.
If they seek it, they will see it, see the problem, and want to fix it.  Please sign the petitions.
Published at Yahoo Voices.

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