Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pandering With Feel Good Laws

Our County government is redundant in any direction you might look. There isn’t much we need or must have from it that warrants keeping it. We have federal, state and local laws passed to “protect” various constituencies. One must question if these levels of government really protect us, or are they simply another level of intrusion into our lives, pandering to special interests? Recently, Planned Parenthood pushed County Legislators to introduce County-level legislation to ban anti-abortion protesters from being within 200 feet of an abortion clinic, or making contact with a girl seeking an abortion. Before getting too excited, whether you are pro-abortion or pro-life, that’s not what this post is about. It’s about needs. Why would the County legislators feel the need to create and/or pass legislation such as this? They’re pandering for votes, similar to trolling for fish, in their districts hoping to get a “bite”.

Federal and New York State laws already exist limiting how close anti-abortionists can get to an abortion clinic. It’s 200 feet. You may be aware of the Planned Parenthood facility on Rt 119, directly across from the Greenburgh Police Station parking lot on Rt 119 that is mostly used when court is in session. Nestled back from the roadway, its not widely realized that it is there – unless you are seeking an abortion or to protest. On occasion, you will see protestors on the same side of the street as the facility, east of the I-287 bridge exit ramp with protest signs. So abortion, as well as anti-abortion, does exist here Greenburgh.

The point is, the anti-abortion protesters are following the laws that exist and staying 200 ft away from the abortion clinic. Why does the County need another law, duplicating what already exists? Because County Legislators can get publicity from it and add the number to their “look what I’ve done” scorecard. They are pandering to the pro-abortionists with another law we simply don’t need. Protagonists insist it closes a gap in the law at a County level. What gap? If nothing else, it highlights that a County legislator missed the opportunity to take a NY State law, use their word processing program to do a Search & Replace with the words “State” with “County” and introduce this as their County bill, pandering to the pro-abortion groups. By the way, County Executive Astorino vetoed this bill because it was redundant to existing laws.

We found the County passing several other “feel good” laws within the last two years or so. The intent of the laws may be valid but the result is more non-enforcable legislation that will dies a quick death and becomes forgotten legislation until election time, when we start receiving the cavalcade of mailings, robo-calls and lawn signs, espousing the “great” job the politico’s have done for us. The only time we ever really hear from our elected officials is when they want to get re-elected. Cha-ching!

This past year found the County government jumping on the “anti-texting” bandwagon by creating a law that is against texting while driving. Did it stop texting? No. Did it reduce texting? No. Going forward, will a ticket ever be written for texting while driving? Maybe. Once an accident has occurred, the police can look at a phone and see if it was being used for texting and issue a ticket. At that point, what’s the point? The accident has already happened and the lesson was better learned by example. We just hope nobody gets seriously injured or killed. Actually, most traffic regulations already prohibit distracted driving. So, whether you are texting, drinking a beverage, doing your makeup, shaving, tuning your radio or having a hands-free phone conversation, you are already breaking the law. That’s right. There are already laws on the books about distracted driving. Why introduce another law for the same thing? It’s not about the need for a new law, it’s about pandering to a new group of voters, of course.

Last year the County entered the environmental brouhaha by creating and passing a law prohibiting vehicular idling for more than three (3) minutes. Pandering in its purist form. Tickets written? None. Most vehicles that pull up to a drive-through window, will wait longer than three minutes to pickup their order from the takeout window. In fact, in Fulton Park, the former deli, now closed for over two years, has petitioned the Town for numerous variances, increasing the impervious space and actually asking for an endorsement to violate of the three-minute idle law. The Town Zoning Board of Appeals is poised to grant it. Stopping vehicles from idling past 3 minutes may be a lofty goal but it is not a realistic one. When a driver pulls up to a store to “run in” and purchase a lottery ticket, their car is left idling longer than three minutes. That’s what the law might seek to limit. Forget about someone stealing the car that was left running with the keys in it.

Most diesel vehicles used to have a more difficult time starting after they were turned off, which explains why many are left running while the driver makes a delivery or “runs in” to buy a lottery ticket. So who and what exactly was this law written for? Certainly not the delivery people, such as the bread, soda or snack vendor making a delivery. School buses? Possibly. When there is an school event at the County Center, a litany of school buses can be seen in the County Center parking lots, on the side streets such as Old Kensico and County Center Roads. These buses may or may not be idling. But who is issuing tickets? Greenburgh Police say its White Plains Police’s territory, White Plains Police say its Greenburgh Police’s territory and the County, who wrote the law always says there are no officers available to investigate. Mostly because they’re getting time-and-a-half overtime directing traffic in front of the County Center. One ABG staffer questioned the three minute idle, concerned that when the school buses are getting warmed up in the morning to go make their runs picking up students they run even longer. Does this count? Nope, after all, we do it for the kids.

After the Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, legislators jumped on the bandwagon to create more gun control laws in hopes of never experiencing more unnecessary school violence such as these two shootings. We only highlight these two shootings, knowing there have been more. Was this a knee-jerk reaction to a horrific event than a rational, well thought-out and planned objective? Obviously, no one wants to see anyone killed or injured by shootings, especially children. But taxing everything to be more expensive is not the answer. All that accomplishes is penalizing law abiding citizens. We don’t outlaw or raise taxes on gasoline because car accidents kill people. Having “gun-free” zones in school neighborhoods may feel good, but it just tells a shooter they will meet no resistance. So all the laws enacted under the heavy-handed guise of improving things rarely works. But it feels good.

We have enough laws, regulations, fees, mandates, controls and over-saturation at local, county, state and federal levels. Writing more laws to fill a small, albeit minuscule gap that may exist will give a politicians a feel good moment they will take advantage of during their next re-election campaign. It will also allow them to provide a mailing update (campaign), highlighting the great work they are doing for us, even though the law may never be enforced. What would be more advantageous for all of us would be for politicians to follow the laws already on the books. And, if they fail to do so, find themselves being investigated and removed from office. Greenburgh might be a good place for that to start. Then will might begin to see A Better Greenburgh.

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