Local government bullies: the zoning gestapo

The term government bullies doesn’t just apply to the federal government. Your state government can overstep, too. The county government has and will attempt to push around its citizens as well. Which brings us to the present discussion: local government. What is local government? Skipping over Mr. Webster’s corpse and writing, let’s define it as the most immediate and direct government in the land. Think city, borough, township, or town government. The kind of government that your neighbors get elected to if they know Joe Shmoe who’s a cop who knows Jane Shmolia who’s on the school board. Yes, that local government. In most instances, the smaller the area being governed, the less likely the overstepping and bullying. However, that doesn’t always preclude them. Local officials or, rather, public servants, have the capacity to inflict almost as much damage as their federal brethren. In this article, we’ll look at the local zoning department.

First of all, until I met a “zoning officer,” I didn’t even know what one was. To be frank, despite the fact that I am Dave, I am still unaware if I met one. Thus my personal story begins. It was 8:00 in the morning and I had just returned home from my third-ish shift job. I heard a knock at the door. Confused, I answered the door. I wouldn’t typically answer the door, as it is my parent’s house and it would be a rarity for anyone to come there for me, but, alas, I answered anyway. I opened the door to a short-haired (nearly bald) man with a blank T-shirt and jeans who immediately started barking in my face. He didn’t actually bark, to be honest, but he might as well have.

Even though this representative of local government made no official, proper introduction, I did notice the officially-marked borough SUV after I went inside.

He went right into the matter, not skipping a beat. He was there because someone called and complained about grass completely overgrown to the point of spilling into neighbors’ yards. In addition, there was garbage in front of the house next door to someone, that he referred to as “abandoned.” He was exclaiming that it needed to be done very soon or I’d be fined . . . as the occupant of that next-door home. Towards the end of the zoning officer’s ranting, I said, “Alright. Well, I am not the owner of the house, but I’d be happy to pass on this information to him, so he could take care of it.” This did not please the unnamed, untitled assailant. He immediately raised his tone of voice and told me that he “didn’t care if I was tenant or not, it needed to be done . . .” I interrupted his rude, uncouth barking and said, “Look, I am not the ‘tenant.’ My father owns this home, takes care of its bills, and other various duties. All I was alluding to was that he isn’t here and gone for a time. I will relay this to him, so it can be looked into.” Again, this did not appease the bully. He chose to ramble on. “You don’t need to wait and tell him. You are doing nothing right now. Why don’t you come out here and do it?” I proceeded to clamp down my anger — and tongue — telling him firmly, “Goodbye,” and closing the door.

Even though this representative of local government made no official, proper introduction, I did notice the officially-marked borough SUV after I went inside. It got me to thinking, what the heck does a zoning officer do anyway? It would seem, after a cursory reading of the local municipal information (found at here), not a lot. They handle building permits and related processes. And even though the bureaucracy encompasses pages upon pages of regulations, I did not see “overgrown grass” listed among them. Even so, it was hardly as such. What is worse, if you are as lucky as my town, you might also have a “Code Enforcement” officer, who essentially does the same things as the zoning enforcement officer. Do not ask me why we have duplicates.

Suffice it to say, that’s the general malaise that has set in. Government bullies are empowered by a weak citizenry. Like sharks who sense blood in the water — or Luke Skywalker exposing the vulnerability of the Death Star — they strike when they sense an easy target. However, they can only accomplish this with a willing and complacent populace. No constitution, whether federal or state, grants them such authority. We, the People, allow the abuses to happen and they fester and grow mold, until they become a problem, forcing us to act. For all the sensationalism about “bullies” and “bullying” these days, where is the outrage or group forming to stand up to our government bullies? Just as I did not have to take that kind of garbage from my local zoning enforcer, neither do you. Government bullies are forming at every level, but it’s always important to start at the bottom and work your way up. Once you’ve been empowered to stand up to your local bully, what follows will likely be a brush fire and expansion of cojones. It’s like the AC/DC song “Big Balls.” That’s what you should strive to.

It’s funny. Those who seem to love big government the most are often those who preach about anti-bullying. Yet, in all honesty, there is only one true bully: government. We give all others far too much credit. They are not even in the same league. Why? Those other aggressors only get away with what we allow. With government, we do not get a choice.

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