Sunday, January 3, 2010

Someone Should Bench These People

HARBESON: Jeff council gets bad marks for bench rules

Jeffersonville government officials and a few City Pride committee members who want to get rid of advertising benches on city sidewalks sure worked hard to imagine possible problems that could be caused by these benches.

One invented problem was driver distraction. Evidently they are very concerned that people will look up from texting while driving, get distracted by a particularly fascinating bench advertisement and wreck their car.

Then we heard from the bench bigots — those who want all the benches to look exactly the same. I guess these people wake up in the middle of the night with the song “Signs” blaring in their heads, the lyrics nightmarishly changed to “signs, signs, everywhere signs, blocking-out-the-green-metal-scenery, breaking my government-controlled-mind.”

Well, they can all rest easy on their government-approved benches now, because the Jeffersonville City Council passed an ordinance full of new regulations for advertising benches.

Why didn’t they just ban these benches outright? Well, the pesky U.S. Constitution got in their way because commercial messages are constitutionally protected free speech.

Of course, if you’re paying attention, you know the Constitution never stops governments from doing whatever they want. It’s always manipulated so the government gets the upper hand. That’s why the law says they can’t ban it, but they can control it. And again, if you’re paying attention, you know that when you control something, it’s pretty easy to get rid of it.

As proof, city resident Mike Cozzin, who runs an advertising bench business, tried to tell them no one would buy advertising under these regulations and he likely would go out of business, but they didn’t care. This fellow resident, their own neighbor, complied with every previous request the city made about his benches for the past 16 years. He cooperated with every change they demanded. But none of that mattered.

They could have stopped to consider how their action might harm others. But they didn’t.

Talk about getting a sign. It could not have been clearer if they had all given him the one-finger salute. Their action clearly said, “Gee, your family is just not a part of our awesome ‘comprehensive’ plan.”

However, let me give one shout-out to Councilman Ron Grooms, because he voted no on the third reading. He’s at least willing to consider consequences of his actions.

Cozzin thought perhaps he could be grandfathered in since he’s complied like a good little boy. But they told him they had to deny grandfathering, and it’s the Constitution’s fault because the Constitution demands everyone be treated the same. This is what happens in a free country, of course, because if you’re going to decrease freedom, well, you have to decrease freedom to everyone equally.

Wait, I mean except for the government itself. The ordinance’s details on the specific regulations and requirements for benches happen to exactly match the city’s current benches. Amazing isn’t it?

I’m kind of surprised other small business owners did not take up for this guy. Were they afraid if they did, then the council would vindictively ban sandwich boards, something many downtown businesses use on the same sidewalks? Were they quiet because the advertisements on the benches were for their competitors? I just don’t know.

Cozzin was doomed from the beginning if he believed that government property is property the people all “own” together. This is just not true and simple logic tells us so.

Someone ultimately has to have control, and in this case, it’s the same people who prefer conformity and think they know better than others what is aesthetically pleasing.

Even if it harms their neighbors.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is often told to sit on it. But her butt just refuses to conform.

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