Thursday, June 18, 2009

Piling Mistake Upon Mistake

COLUMN NOTES: This is the third column I wrote on the Jeffersonville Sex Offender Ban which I refer to in this post.

HARBESON: Sex offender law something to think about

Columnist says council, attorney piling mistake upon mistake

Local Columnist

Last week, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against the city of Jeffersonville in a lawsuit concerning the ordinance banning sex offenders in government parks. According to the appeals court, the city improperly used the law to prohibit Eric Dowdell from watching his little boy play baseball even though he was no longer required to even register as a sex offender.

In 2006 I explained why this law wasn’t a good idea in the first place. In 2008 I explained that what government officials were doing to Dowdell was wrong.

I figured that would be it for me, but I’ve discovered a columnist’s work is never done. This time around, though, I’m going to let government officials do the work. Yes, I’m getting smarter.

Let’s start with the lawyer. Back in 2006, attorney Larry Wilder, who wrote the ordinance, admitted there may be lawsuits but he thought the city would win.
Think about that. He knew this law as written was open to challenge from the beginning, but it didn’t matter. Why? Could it be because it’s only taxpayer money? Isn’t a lawsuit a good thing as far as the attorney is concerned?

After losing the appeal, Wilder said recent rulings were to blame and added, “The law is fluid… it changes all the time.” Think about that. Who benefits from constitutionally questionable, constantly changing, and confusing laws?

Let’s move on to the politicians. Councilman Keith Fetz, who sponsored the ordinance, said they threw out the safety of children and law abiders for the sake of a sex offender. And Council President Connie Sellers said, “I have four kids - why wouldn’t I support it?”

Think about that. If either of these two (and all the other council members) had spent just 5 minutes educating themselves, they would know that this law disregards all current knowledge about sexual offenses against kids and is completely useless. Of course politicians aren’t interested in such things; they are interested in passing laws to create the illusion of protection so you continue to think they are doing something useful. How else are they going to justify taking your money?

Sellers also said she didn’t want to be accused of supporting sex offenders if she didn’t support the ordinance. Think about that. She’s letting her fear of being accused of something that could hurt her political career guide her judgment more than standing up for whether a law is constitutional, effective, or even necessary.

They have no intention of stopping this nonsense. Fetz wants to appeal and says “I will not rest until I accomplish what I intended to accomplish – give park goers an extra layer of protection.” Think about that. Why would he be so desperate to continue spending your money on something that was not a problem to begin with? Who is he really trying to protect at this point?

Upon hearing that the court also criticized the amount of documentation required to obtain an exemption, Fetz said he “doesn’t know how we can make it any easier.” Think about that. How much power should politicians have if they can’t even figure a way out of a bureaucratic paperwork mess they created?

I don’t care about these three people in particular; they only provide the latest evidence from those employed by government who want you to believe that laws they create are always good ideas.

Politicians have been doing this repeatedly for many years. As a matter of fact, maybe we should create a registry and demand all government officials sign up so we can start tracking the recidivism rate of screwing the citizens.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson often has to do a task three times before she figures out how to get someone else to do it for her.