In this week's installment explaining why social media is simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to the world, I bring you the saga of the ill-fated garage sale ordinance.
First, some background. If you live, well, practically anywhere, you probably have somebody in your neighborhood who has a perpetual garage sale going. Somewhere around 350 days a year (hey, everyone needs a day off every now and again) there they are with tables of, we'll call it "stuff", strewn about their property. You might see them camping out in a folding chair or something, doing a crossword puzzle and waiting to see if someone will stop and purchase some of their "stuff".
You might be thinking, "You know, I'm not so sure I like that. Maybe it doesn't make my neighborhood look the best."
Well, good news, fellow voters! Members of your city government agreed with you!
So, an ordinance was presented that would require those holding garage sales to pay a $5 fee, acquire a permit and it also limited the number of sales that could be held in a year. It was passed without much hoopla after it went through the required readings. But somewhere along the line after its passage, the Facebook mafia got ahold of it.
Once that happens, look out.
It should be noted that Michigan City Police Chief Mark Swistek stood up at a City Council meeting and said in no uncertain terms that people need not worry, MCPD would not have a guy or gal driving around on Saturday mornings demanding to see everyone's garage sale permits.
MCPD requested this ordinance, you see, so that it had a tool against those pesky perpetual daily sales that most of us, I'm assuming, dislike.
Never in the mood to let facts get in the way of a good public outcry, the Facebook mafia mounted up. There was post after post with dozens or hundreds of comments speaking out against the garage sale ordinance. It seemed most of the uproar surrounded the nominal $5 fee, which wasn't as important to anyone associated with the ordinance as the actual permit process itself.
So, the public wanted the government to get off its lawn and government obliged, with Mayor Ron Meer issuing an executive order to suspend the $5 fee and permit requirement until such time as the council can re-examine the issue.
Look, I've never held a garage sale in my life. I may one day do so and if I need to acquire a permit, it's not going to bother me any.
If MCPD, though, would have a tool to shut down the daily sales around the city (I can think of something similar not far from my house), then I'm definitely on board with that.
At the end of the day, the garage sale thing is sort of a silly issue. Frankly, too much valuable time has already been spent on it. Permit or no permit, I don't think anyone's life is going to change that much.
But here, it appears to me that government officials had sound reasoning for this ordinance. These are people elected to act on our behalf and council members unanimously agreed this was a good idea. But, the opposition was more vocal than the other side, so just about everyone reversed course on the issue. Perhaps it's the cynic in me, but I can't help but wonder if this might have gone differently in a non-election year.
I'll offer a compromise: Reinstitute the ordinance minus the fee. Require residents to acquire a permit, but without a fee, sort of like the parking pass for Washington Park.
Can we live with that?
Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-219-214-4170.