Thursday, October 27, 2011

When does a City go too far?

I  am going to ask three questions.
  1. If the government told you that you could only buy fuel for your car on even or odd days based on the last number on your license plate in order to conserve fuel how would you feel?
  2. If the government decided to ticket and fine you if you allowed your car to idle for more than two minutes how would you feel?
  3.  If the government told you that you could only drive your car on even or odd days based on the last number of your license plate how would you feel?

Each of these questions sounds outrageous right?  Would you believe that questions one and two are not hypothetical but actually happened?  In the late 70’s the US was in the midst of an oil crisis and a gas shortage caused by poor US foreign policy.  The Carter administration decided that the best way to deal with the issue was to “Conserve,” restrict when people could buy fuel for their cars. If you were caught purchasing gas when it was not your day you received a heavy fine. 

I remember as a kid living during the gas shortage thinking that there would not be gas when I was old enough to drive.  Fortunately President Carter only served one term and Reagan was elected.  Reagan understood that the way to solve a gas crisis was to find more US oil, not to limit the ability of American’s to drive. 

Mayor Becker and ALL of the members of the City Council of Salt Lake City, Utah also think the way to solve a problem is to limit driving privileges of citizens. The City Council has just enacted a new city ordinance that imposes fines on motorists who allow their cars to idle for more than two minutes.  Some exceptions have been granted but the average driver will be screwed on this one. 
Let’s suppose that it is the middle of winter and temperatures are in single digits after a huge snow storm.  Your car is parked outside and you need to clean off the snow before you can go to work.  As usual, you clean the snow from your driver’s side door and start your car to warm it up. It takes you ten minutes to clean the ice and snow from all of your windows.  One of your busy-body neighbors calls the police and they show up and give you a $160 ticket because they just warned you the last time.  

Does it seem right that any government agency has the right to legislate how long you can allow your car to idle in your driveway or anywhere else for that matter? I think it is an outrage and a huge infringement on our rights when the government limits our ability to drive or to operate our vehicles.  

The City officials claim that it is their way to help curb air pollution in our city.  Maybe a better way to curb air pollution is to stop all of the UTA buses that run almost empty all over Salt Lake spewing black exhaust everywhere they go?  Or maybe the city should prohibit the many cargo trains that pass through Salt Lake day and night, or stop the delivery trucks or taxis?  There is probably a hundred other things the city could do to limit public and private access to LEGAL automobiles. I think each of them is an example of the government putting its long nose into places it does not belong. 

 Now think about question three, how would you feel if the government told you that you could only drive your car every other day?  I am amazed that City officials make laws like this.  They take a little here a little there and before you know it the only way you will be able to get around is on a bicycle or by foot. 

I think that as long as it is legal to own and drive an automobile that the government needs to stay out of my business if I choose to idle my car on a snowy day while waiting four minutes for one of the four members of my car pool to come out of his house and get into my car!  Wait a minute, did I say car pool? What was I thinking trying to help limit the amount of cars on the road by “voluntarily” joining a car pool?  Is it possible that citizens using common sense can actually do more to solve an air pollution problem than a power hungry city government?

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