by Mel Griffith
As Bradley County gets more densely populated, there seem to be constant demands for more regulation of almost everything. People frequently appear before the commission whose request boils down to: "My neighbor is doing something that I don't like. I want you to pass a law that says that I can have my way and my neighbor can't have his." Some of these folks, like those some time ago who moved to the country and then wanted to ban chicken houses for a mile around them are just meddlers who need to mind their own business. Others, like those complaining about motors racing at AM have a valid complaint. Still others, like current efforts to regulate yard sales are in a gray area where there are minor problems that may not be serious enough to justify action.
The question the commission has to ask in each of these situations is this: How much burden should be placed on all 100,000 citizens of Bradley County in order to fix a problem that only bothers a few dozen people, even if it is a real problem? How much public time and money should be taken away from serious problems in order to deal with minor aggravations? Public policy should not be determined by the whims of the most super-sensitive among us. In a lot of cases the best solution may be for the few people affected by the problem to live with it instead of creating a new set of problems in an effort to fix the initial one. After all, most of us don't like to get caught in traffic jams, but the government doesn't rush out and build a new road every time a new one develops. We have to put up with them as part of living in a crowded country. The same attitude may need to apply to a lot of other small annoyances.
It's easy enough to see that racing a motor in the middle of the night is undesirable but trying to write a regulation to cover noise would likely result in hundreds of borderline cases where somebody on the public payroll would have to try to determine whether a particular noise is or isn't too loud. Is that a good use of taxpayer's money? I would rather law enforcement concentrated on protecting my life and property instead of protecting me from noise, even if I don't particularly like the noise. The same goes for a lot of other minor nuisances. Another problem with the enforcement of unimportant restrictions is that they are usually "complaint driven," in other words they are only enforced if somebody complains. In reality, running afoul of these restrictions depends a lot more on whether your neighbors like you or not than on what you actually do. Besides that, vague rules are often passed on the assumption that they will be enforced with common sense only to have enforcement fall into the hands of by-the-book bureaucrats who are determined to enforce every letter no matter what it costs or how much trouble it causes or whether it even does any good.
The commission needs to listen carefully to complaints and try to fix significant problems but every minor problem doesn't need a new law to fix it.