Sometimes you just have to wonder about the politics of this place.
Our local economy is sputtering again, the housing market is flirting with a double-dip, our transportation system is getting more congested and crumbling around us, and local and state budgets are showing years of red ink ahead. Yet, amid all of these truly important issues, what has prompted the most vigorous response from Montgomery County officials lately?
Prohibiting fire and rescue personnel from "passing the boot" to raise money for muscular dystrophy and cracking down on illicit lemonade stands at the U.S. Open.
Wow, I sure feel a lot better, how about you?
I have always wondered about this "passing the boot" issue. As I understand it, such solicitations are not technically permitted, unless the participants stay on the median and do not enter the intersections, which apparently has not always been the case. So in comes our brave County Councilmember Phil Andrews to end this grave threat to our public safety once and for all by banning the practice completely. Never mind that this campaign has been going on for many years, without a single serious injury or incident, and yet "safety concerns" are the stated reason for the crackdown.
The bigger question is this: Why do we care? The end result of this once-a-year campaign is that lots of money gets raised for an important charitable cause, lots of kids get help, and no one gets hurt. So why, looking back all at the serious issues we’re facing, does this one become a priority for an immediate legislative fix? With all due respect to Mr. Andrews, I think the council has a few more important issues on their plate.
Not to be outdone, the executive branch swung into action this week, shutting down and slapping a $500 fine on a group of children (and their parents) for operating a lemonade stand without a permit at the U.S. Open. Technically, from a narrowly legalistic point of view, the permit inspector probably had a point, but county officials quickly backpedaled in the face of a loud public outcry against what was clearly seen as a case of overzealous enforcement. The fine was dropped and the stand was allowed to re-open a short distance away, but our image as a hyper-regulatory hotbed was once again reinforced.
In both cases, one might wonder: Where was the common sense here, or a sense of proportion? When we parents get a little too hyper-reactive and blow a gasket over some minor infraction by our kids, sometimes they gently remind us, "Dad, take a chill pill."
Maybe it’s time our county officials took that same bit of sage advice, or better yet, kick back with a nice cool glass of lemonade and just let it go. It’s really just not that important.