By Nathan Barton
We all know the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” It was the (unofficial) motto of several Engineer units with which I served or knew well.
Always a bunch of recent examples, but here is one that fits with the bitter cold and snow after snow burying the West right now: In Pocatello, Idaho (according to the Blaze), cops ticketed ($200 fine) a man for plowing snow from his own street and putting it on his own yard. No, he apparently wasn’t cited for stealing water (whoops – shouldn’t say that, will give Colorado, California, and other states bad ideas). Rather, because in Pocatello, “It is unlawful for any person to deposit, place or allow to remain in or upon any public right of way any material or substance injurious to persons or property.” But he was REMOVING a “substance” to help his neighbors get out of their driveway.
We have a neighbor that does that: there are four of us that live on a private dead-end lane, and one of our neighbors goes out with his little skidster to get the worst of the snow off EVERYONE’s stretch of road. For years, my father’s neighbors helped keep his sidewalk clear of snow because they knew how bad his arthritis was.
But apparently the Nanny City of Pocatello thinks that helping people is a bad idea. Either that, or their employees are afraid that if people move snow for themselves, they’ll lose overtime. And when I read that ordinance, there is more: a person can be cited if they “allow to remain… any material or substance…” Wow. If there is a piece of wood on the street, that someone could hit with a tire and “injure” the tire, and is left in the street, EVERY person who fails to stop and pick it up is subject to being ticketed and fined $200. Wow. The city must be rolling in dough, no?
Of course if you DO stop to get the piece of wood, the same cop can probably ticket you for jaywalking or being an obstruction to traffic or even stealing. (“Is that YOUR piece of wood, sir?”) Especially if you are on a street partially financed by Federal Highway Trust money (which most are) and you aren’t wearing the proper class of retroreflective personal protective high-visibility vest and hat (minimum 10 square inches of retroreflective material on the hat, which can glow orange or lime or pink). That is a violation of a FEDERAL regulation and the fines are a WHOLE lot more than $200.
If we really were in a free society, there would not be any silly laws about leaving this or that, or picking up or NOT picking up something, or walking around with or without glow in the headlamps clothing. But you also wouldn’t have people afraid of being punished for stopping and spending a few seconds and a bit of sweat to keep that piece of wood from damaging someone’s tire or a lot more time and effort to keep an elderly neighbor’s driveway clear of snow.
Now, if we truly were a land of liberty, that street or road wouldn’t belong to “the people” as “represented” by a bunch of thugs in suits and uniforms. It would belong to a group or a company interested in providing safe and usable streets (and maybe parking) either for their own members (say, a co-op) or their customers. And their insurance company might establish some standards and rules, based on the bottom line of cost and NOT the political expediency of towns and cities and counties.
Businesses and VOLUNTARY associations have very little interest in punishing someone for good (OR bad) deeds. (Unless they are in the disgusting situation of being contractors to government – like the speed and traffic light camera manufacturers or operators.) There are better things to do with their time and money. Unfortunately, all too often businesses and associations (even churches) either are forced to enforce government regulations or are taught (wrongly) that they are “obeying God by obeying men.” And that is just plain sick.
A wild thought. In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. Perhaps, a conversation that should have been found between verses 37 and 38 (but is not) would go something like this. “The expert in the law stared long and hard at Jesus. ‘Teacher, what is the name of that Samaritan?’ Jesus said, ‘Why is that of importance?’ The expert in the law said, ‘For he has violated the laws of man by aiding this traveler, and he must be arrested and fined. It is not the responsibility of anyone to aid people robbed on the road nor to give them medical treatment, unless they are a soldier or a doctor.’ And Jesus looked at him. ‘Truly I say unto you, you are far from the kingdom of Heaven. Never mind going and doing likewise. Just go.'”