En­force equally or not at all

The Covington News - - OPINION -

One thing small busi­ness own­ers par­tic­u­larly re­sent is be­ing sad­dled with lo­cal laws that govern­ment of­fi­cials don’t en­force equally or at all.

Cov­ing­ton Coun­cil­man Keith Dal­ton op­er­ated a home-based busi­ness for more than a quar­ter cen­tury and never once se­cured a lo­cal busi­ness li­cense from the city. When the is­sue fi­nally came to a head, he paid a $50 pro­rated share for 2013 with no ad­di­tional fees or fines. If that’s en­force­ment, what’s the point?

We un­der­stand lo­cal busi­ness li­censes mainly ex­ist as an­other source of rev­enue for govern­ment and are not an of­fi­cial reg­u­la­tory step. How­ever, we’ve found most small busi­ness own­ers are hard-work­ing, car­ing folks who pride them­selves on do­ing busi­ness the right way and do their best to com­ply with each of the myr­iad of city and county or­di­nances and state laws on the books.

If the city of Cov­ing­ton has or­di­nances that can’t be en­forced, then the city should ei­ther hire more code en­force­ment of­fi­cers or be­gin cut­ting out ex­tra­ne­ous or­di­nances. In ei­ther case, the busi­nesses own­ers do­ing things the right way would ap­pre­ci­ate ei­ther the equal en­force­ment of lo­cal laws or a re­duc­tion of their reg­u­la­tory bur­den.

We sug­gest city of­fi­cials take time to re­view their or­di­nances to fig­ure out which ones re­ally mat­ter and which ones are only there for show. Don’t pe­nal­ize the peo­ple who fol­low the rules.

If you try hard, you might re­call the beauty of a bright blue sky stud­ded with big, puffy white clouds, both miss­ing for weeks. But look around and revel in the rain­bow of col­ors that sum­mer brings, rain or shine: lemony daylilies, rosy crepe myr­tles, shiny red toma­toes, bold yel­low squash, massed pur­ple petu­nias and ver­bena, golden marigolds, the lookat-me col­ors of Ger­bera daisies, inky blue blue­ber­ries, the qui­etly al­lur­ing pink, blue and laven­der of heavy-headed hy­drangeas, and the let-me-have-ataste-red of fresh-picked straw­ber­ries. The un­re­lent­ing rain makes the var­ie­gated greens of shrubs, lawns and trees more luscious than ever.

Sum­mer’s a feast for the eyes, and says the HGTV web­site, ev­ery color has mean­ing. Green is “life it­self,” “new­ness” and birth. It has a “whimsical” side, and slapped on a wall, it stim­u­lates con­ver­sa­tion in a room. Blue is “fresh and vi­tal.”

Pur­ple, “head­strong” and “pow­er­ful,” con­notes roy­alty and prophets, in­ter­twined sor­row and pas­sion.

Yel­low speaks of “higher pow­ers” be­yond the ken of man and sug­gests “in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism,” “ran­dom thoughts” and “in­no­cent hap­pi­ness.” Red rep­re­sents the life force and pow­er­ful hu­man emo­tions, both love and hate. It is “full of ego” and “in­ner flames.”

Pink ex­presses youth and joy­ful life. It is gen­tle and calm, in­no­cent and play­ful. It speaks to the fem­i­nine side of both women and men.

Then there’s gray, non­de­script and neu­tral, ei­ther warm or cool or nei­ther. It is said to con­vey “so­lid­ity” and sup­port, but it also stands for wis­dom. And in my mind, gray is where much of life is lived, where the out­come and res­o­lu­tion of many is­sues and sit­u­a­tions are nei­ther black nor white nor en­tirely clear-cut.

Don’t get me wrong: Poll­sters can de­ter­mine clear di­vides on is­sues in the pub­lic do­main, but the find­ings don’t nec­es­sar­ily as­sign right or wrong.

Af­ter all, your “right” might be my “wrong,” and vice versa. Re­li­gious texts of all the ma­jor faiths at­tempt to define what is mete and right or un­just and there­fore dis­al­lowed for be­liev­ers.

Man­made laws also at­tempt to define what is right and wrong – or bet­ter, ac­cept­able and un­ac­cept­able – in the in­ter­ac­tions of peo­ple, gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions. But still the laws are made by women and men, all flawed crea­tures, and sub­ject fur­ther to in­ter­pre­ta­tion by the courts.

Politi­cians and protest- ers be­lieve them­selves to be able to clearly define right and wrong, but each group has a side to push that disallows other think­ing. Pol­i­tics is now mainly a game, and the “win­ner” is judged to be “right” when the win­ner ac­tu­ally may be far from “right” if all the facts and nu­ances of an is­sue could be laid fairly and ob­jec­tively on the ta­ble.

This is not likely be­cause hu­man be­ings are a bun­dle of emo­tions, prej­u­dices, needs, de­sires and var­i­ous lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence. “Right,” if it is pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine, may well lie in the dark and dusty de­tails pur­pose­fully or accidentally left out of the dis­cus­sion.

Let’s talk about Paula Deen. She hon­estly con­fessed in a de­po­si­tion (be­cause she had no choice) that she had used a de­spi­ca­ble word at some time in the past, maybe many times. She and her brother are be­ing sued for al­legedly cre­at­ing a racially in­sen­si­tive work en­vi­ron­ment at a fam­ily-owned restau­rant.

Her em­pire cratered im­me­di­ately, as spon­sor af­ter spon­sor dropped her like a hot potato bat­tered and deep-fried. Her TV show was can­celed; pub­lish­ing plans came to a quick halt.

She didn’t win any ku­dos for how she han­dled the melt­down of her ca­reer. To many, the reaction seemed to be overkill and pil­ing on. To oth­ers, it was an ap­pro­pri­ate pub­lic bash­ing.

Did she de­serve what she got? Or did she not? The an­swer to me is nei­ther black nor white, but gray like her well-coiffed tresses.

Then there’s the armed Ge­orge Zim­mer­man and the death of an un­armed young man, Trayvon Martin. Zim­mer­man has been ac­quit­ted of charges, and by my lay­man’s un­der­stand­ing of Florida law, the avail­able ev­i­dence, the case made or not made by the pros­e­cu­tion, and the judge’s in­struc­tions to the ju­rors, the ac­quit­tal was not in­ex­pli­ca­ble.

Yet it leaves an un­set­tled feel­ing as if jus­tice were a sec­ond vic­tim. We are quick to say some­one must pay if some­one is wronged, but the only reme­dies are through law made by hu­man be­ings. Jus­tice is de­fined in the Amer­i­can Her­itage Dic­tionary as “the prin­ci­ple of moral right­ness,” but also as “the ad­min­is­tra­tion and pro­ce­dure of the law.” Are those two def­i­ni­tions some­times un­re­lated?

It’s a gray area for me, but not to thou­sands ar­rayed on ei­ther side in this case. It’s easy for me­dia cov­er­age, opin­ion writ­ers and sup­port­ers who take sides to make it seem we live on the fringes of is­sues. But too much – to me - re­mains in the mid­dle, in­de­ci­pher­able and un­de­cided.

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