That citizens are now leading Haines Borough officials by the nose to enforce the municipality’s laws on junk cars is only the most recent manifestation of a permissive attitude at city hall that creates more problems than it solves.
With luck, the incoming Mayor and assembly members will steer the government back to an attitude of lawfulness.
Statements by borough leaders suggesting they’re spending money to clean up a lot on Small Tracts Road because "they have to" perfectly encapsulate the government’s recent inclination to help residents get around its laws.
The borough should say it’s cleaning up the junk cars because that action is required by law, and that we are a nation of laws and that all citizens are equal before them. The borough should at the same time notify landowners they also can’t pile up heaps without a permit, and if they do, the borough will come after them.
Or, if that is not acceptable, leaders should relax laws about junk cars to some standard they’re willing to enforce.
But looking the other way when residents violate laws, creatively interpreting laws to make questionable actions permissible, or enforcing laws only when aggrieved residents threaten legal action, are not acceptable. They make the borough equivalent to a bad parent afraid to set or enforce rules for fear of losing their child’s favor.
The pernicious fringe benefit to such permissiveness is that elected or appointed leaders who do "favors" for residents tend to stay popular and thus keep their jobs.
On the junk cars issue, the borough can’t play victim. Neither can landowners who allow dozens of car bodies to amass on their properties. The victims are landowners who find themselves living next to unauthorized, illegal junkyards.
Borough leaders suggest we need to socialize the costs of junk car disposal because landowners and government officials can’t control the illegal dumping of cars around town. That’s one view.
Another view is that each of us is responsible for our car or cars, just as we’re responsible for our children, our pets, and our other possessions. When we act irresponsibly with our possessions, the law steps in and penalties are levied.
That’s the rule of law. It’s worked in the past. --Tom Morphet