by Christopher Freind
What is the biggest threat to our security?
Gas grills, naturally.
In an act that can only be described as prescient, Avalon, New Jersey burned its competition by being one of the first to protect its citizens from the menacing grill crisis.
It outlawed propane grills on decks.
No joke, as the Borough Council ordinance reads:
“Propane gas grills are not permitted on any deck, under any building overhang, or within five feet of exterior wall. (Natural gas, charcoal, and electric [grills] are allowed).”
Avalon beachgoers should feel privileged, as that regulation undoubtedly keeps them safe from the greatest pandemic we face as a nation: the destructive force of exploding gas grills. How grave is the threat? The National Fire Protection Association claims that "more than 6,100 accidental fires and explosions occur [each year] due to the improper use of grills.” A conservative estimate is that 60 percent of America’s 114 million households own gas grills (that's 69 million gas-grillin’Yanks). So the accident rate is a whopping --- wait, we need a bigger calculator --- 8.84 x 10-5, or, in layman's terms, .009 percent.
So let’s get this straight. We're passing laws to protect the .009 percent of the idiot population who can’t use a gas grill properly?
Interestingly, it’s a law that only applies to renters --- not homeowners. So therefore, is it safe to say that all renters are morons and homeowners grill-savvy? Or is it to prevent renters from lugging their 100 pound grills on vacation with them? (Doesn’t everybody do that?) Or, as is likely the case, is it government intruding into where it does not belong?
If a homeowner wants to allow a renter to grill, that should be his prerogative. If not, then lock up the grill. And if, Lord forbid, there is an unfortunate event, that’s why God made homeowners’ insurance. But government should not be needlessly interfering in the private affairs of citizens.
What makes the situation so explosive is how such laws are selectively enforced. Should a house be subject to a noise complaint, the police, upon noticing a grill on the deck, can order its removal and levy a fine --- with no action taken against every other house on the block sporting a deck grill. The end result of such blatant favoritism is disdain for the law and the agents who enforce it.
While it would be nice to think that such a law is an isolated intrusion on our freedoms, that’s not the case. Ego-driven government officials seem to be the norm, deliberately placing laws on the books that can shut a business down or make one’s life pure hell for virtually any reason. Consider:
-Ordinance 7:2-5.10 prohibits the alteration or repair of any building on any Sunday in the summer. While vacationers surely desire peace and quiet, should government have the right to tell a homeowner that he cannot work on his home? Many houses are rental properties that must be up to code in order to be put on the market. Since most of their owners work during the week, the only time they can make necessary repairs are on the weekends. But in Avalon's view, if you can't make it down the shore on Saturday, you're out of luck.
A cynic might think that policy smacks of collusion between the local government and shore contractors.
And naturally, there is an exception for ---you guessed it--- Avalon itself, as the ordinance does “not apply to limited projects of the Borough of Avalon.” Nothing like being above the law.
But it doesn’t stop there.
-An Avalon homeowner passed up an opportunity to have a new garage built for free. His existing garage was adjoined to his neighbor's, who was razing both his house and garage to build new structures. The builder calculated that it was more cost-efficient to level both garages rather than dismantle just one.
So why pass on such a lucrative offer? Because his washer and dryer are in the garage, and if he were to demolish the building, he would not be permitted to reinstall them (they are grandfathered). Why is Avalon telling a homeowner---and yes, a taxpayer--- what he can and can't do in his own garage? It isn’t to prevent a “bungalow” situation, since that arrangement is already outlawed in the zoning laws. So what then, other than to simply maintain the ability to penalize an individual or business at will?
We may have won the Cold War, but too many government officials have since forgotten what we were fighting to protect: freedom from governmental tyranny.
One of the greatest threats to America is the overabundance of regulations governing every aspect of our lives, and worse, the selective enforcement of those laws. Too many have been conditioned to just accept the “inevitable,” because, after all, many of those laws “aren’t really enforced.”
But then why have them on the books at all?
While reasonable discretion can and should be applied to each individual case, selective enforcement opens the door to an oppressive government --- a door that rarely closes.
And it has pitted citizens against each other.
Don’t like your neighbor? No problem. Just rat him out. With thousands of obscure laws on the books, he’ll always be guilty of something. The ultimate irony is that when a society pits people against each another, utilizing an endless web of laws, it becomes a lawless nation.
The way to maintain stability is to enforce laws uniformly and without prejudice. If Avalon chooses to keep a law as stupid as prohibiting grills on decks, then it should enforce it across the board, no exceptions. But no one should ever get cited just because a neighbor wants to “get him.”
Ronald Reagan once stated, “Whenever you go to bed with the government, you are going to get more than a good night’s sleep.”
Oh how right he was! So fire up the grill and pass the Vaseline.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com
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