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Sidewalks, Hypocrisy and Local Government Gone Wild

Clean your finger before you point at my spots.     Benjamin Franklin

I usually don’t post articles about my local town politics, since it doesn’t pertain to the vast majority of people who happen to read my blog but I will use this instance as  a case in point on what’s happening in local municipalities around the country. I reside in a pleasant small borough in Northeastern Bergen County New Jersey called Closter named by the original Dutch settlers of the early 1700’s.  I have lived there almost all of my 51 years in the same house I grew up in and served on its town council , zoning board and other various volunteer boards when I a “younger” man in the late 1980’s through early 1990’s. Since that time I have been “Retired “ in terms of local affairs. I freely admit I have been lazy and complacent and not making my voice heard in local politics and I found that complacency always has a price.

         The great recession that began in 2007 is taking its toll on its residents as in the rest of the country with a huge spike in foreclosures, residents delinquent in property taxes as well as a cut in state aid to the town from the state capital.  The current town council of course has decided to curtail spending on road resurfacing and borough property maintenance after in my opinion some years of spending on unnecessary public projects and there has been a significant rise in the past few years in homeowners property taxes.

Last week I found a “Warning Notice” in the mail from the borough giving me 30 days to fix my front sidewalk to “eliminate cracks and crevasses” and to make the walk more level. I immediately examined my sidewalk and found a few hairline cracks where the construction code official was nice enough to indicate with a small painted dot on the 3 areas of my walk supposedly in violation. One area designated was a portion of my sidewalk dug up by the borough a few years ago for them to put in a handicap ramp on the street corner that is now slightly cracked. I guess now I have to now fix their  handiwork.

I inquired with some of my fellow residents who told me that the town has been blanketed by inspections of homeowner’s sidewalks and violations notices have been sent out in masse.  Now to be perfectly clear I am not against public safety and believe serious violations that threaten public safety have to be dealt with.  I am also not disputing that a few of these “notices” were justifiable, but I am against bureaucratic hypocrisy. All I had to prove to myself of this hypocrisy was to stroll 40 feet across the street from my house and looked at the sidewalk that the borough is “supposed” to maintain. My sidewalk almost looks in pristine condition compared to the cracked uneven and possibly hazardous state that their sidewalk is in. There are other areas of town property in which the same conditions apply, funny I don’t see any painted “Dots” on these and I wont hold my breath for the inspector to send a “Warning Notice” to the Mayor.

My town is not alone as I scan the web, newspapers and other media I see that there is a growing number of small towns that have “gone wild” from a recent stories from a town in Texas that threatened a little girl with a $200.00 fine for setting up a small lemonade stand to raise money for charity to municipalities that impose large fines for those who forget to obtain a permit for a garage sale. In this time of economic hardship for all of us it seems they want to beat up on the taxpayers who provides their revenue and who they are supposed to serve. As law-abiding tax paying citizens we deserve better than this. Local government should obey the same standards they hold their citizens accountable to and should use common sense when dealing with their citizens. Make your voices heard my fellow citizens and remember complacency always has a price.

– Just my opinion D.B.

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