Olivia B. Waxman, reporting for “Time, Inc.” writes this past July 2 that “Sealed Air, the original seller of bubble wrap, is rolling out a new version of bubble wrap with bubbles that do not pop.”
Bubble wrap with bubbles that don’t pop? What’s the fun in that?
Likewise politicians who wrap themselves in layers of language that are non-permeable, impenetrable, unfathomable and otherwise unpoppable are rather effectively – and sadly – difficult to hold accountable.
Unlayered, here is Ben Gonter, candidate for Lakewood City Council.
Gonter is contending for Incumbent Marie Barth’s position on the Council in an August 4 Primary with the likely prospect that the matter will be decided between the same two at the November Election given the lack of information available for the third candidate.
You can read Barth’s and Gonter’s platform, education, experience and credentials on pages 66 and 67 respectively of the voter’s pamphlet.
More on where the two stand on one important issue in a moment.
But first a weather report.
As surely as the sun will heat up the landscape once again as we approach the August 4 Primary, so a scorched-earth sign-war of sorts has already heated up between the Barth and Gonter camps.
Gonter has filed a complaint with the Lakewood Police Department. Gonter says in the neighborhood of ten percent of his signs are gone from the neighborhood – at best unneighborly, at worst criminal.
Up one day, gone the next according to Gonter.
Gonter says he did find two of his neon-green (he also has them in the more traditional red-white-and-blue) “Vote for Ben Gonter – Lakewood City Council” signs in a dumpster smeared with what appeared to be gravy – perhaps from the nearby fast food place – that had eaten away the paint on his sign.
Other “Vote for Ben Gonter” signs, Gonter says, were found thrown into surrounding weeds, or just gone for good.
That’s a crime.
Actually it’s a misdemeanor which means the mean person “unlawfully removing, defacing” (gravy, etc.), “or destroying any sign posted in compliance with this Ordinance (08.44.090) is subject to a maximum penalty of two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00)” according to Lakewood Municipal Code 10.24.070.
The city means it.
And the city should because anybody with the as-American-as-apple-pie-political-wherewithal who would go to the considerable expense, time and trouble to pound hundreds of signs in the ground, let alone pound the pavement (Gonter says he’s been on every doorstep in Oakbrook, so far) deserves the right to be seen and heard, his signs not stolen or trashed.
When current councilman Paul Bocchi was running uncontested in 2011 for the seat that had been vacated by Walter Neary, he put up signs anyway. Cheryl Tucker, editorialist for the Tacoma News Tribune and Lakewood resident, asked Bocchi why it mattered:
“This is an opportunity to get my name in front of the voters,” Bocchi said, “especially since I am a non-incumbent. While it would be easier to just show up in January and get sworn in, I feel like carrying through with some type of effort is better for everybody and respectful of the process.”
In other words, sign waving and stake pounding are not “silly and juvenile,” though there are those who would have you believe just that.
Neither should the theft of signs go without notice as if it were merely the “perennial side product of political campaigns” with which disparaging comment the gambling interests in Lakewood dismissed similar theft complaints of the “Vote Yes Prop. 1” grass-roots organizers during the attempt to oust the predatory industry in the city’s only initiative, 2008.
There’s a place for signs – not trashed in the dumpster, not tossed in a ditch, and not in or on the following: “Signs may not be attached to trees, utility poles or other public structures. All signs are prohibited on all traffic islands.”
All of which makes sense.
Speaking of making sense, Gonter takes issue with Barth’s decision-making.
“‘What makes the best sense for Lakewood?’” has been the question I ask,” Barth states in the Voter’s Guide, “when I cast my vote as your Councilmember.”
So how was Barth’s vote in approval of alcohol, smoking and tobacco in all 12 city parks the best for Lakewood?
“I just don’t think we need somebody telling us what to do all the time, every day, everywhere we go,” Council Member Marie Barth said in backing off a ban on smoking and tobacco use in city parks in a Tacoma News Tribune article, January 19, 2014. Barth added “expanding this to e-cigarettes, I just think we’re overreaching common sense.”
But Gonter, when asked his position on this matter, replied “What does Los Angeles and New York City know that Lakewood doesn’t know?” Both – among the largest cities in the nation – voted to ban e-cigarettes in their respective parks this past March 4.
“The whole reason for government is to help and protect the people it serves,” Gonter said. “By not banning alcohol and tobacco in our public parks she (Barth) and others on the council are doing a disfavor to the citizens of Lakewood.”
On Feb.18, 2014 the Lakewood City Council voted 4 to 3 to allow smoking in all of Lakewood’s 12 parks.
Though difficult to find, here’s the circuitous route to discover what the new rule is.
Google “City of Lakewood, WA” where to be sure you are there it should also say “Official Site.” It’ll be subtitled “includes all City web articles, publications, etc.”
Below all that you should see the words “Municipal Code.”
Click on that.
There should now appear on your computer screen on the right hand side a listing of everything from “General Provisions (01),” to “Land Use and Development Code (18A).”
Of course you want to know what the ruling is for smoking and tobacco use in Lakewood Parks but you won’t find it in the first perusal of this list.
So, being a health issue, you would think then it would be found in the category “Health and Safety (08)” and you would further think to click on the subcategory “Smoking in Public Places (08.44)” and if you do click on that you’ll learn everything about where smoking is allowed and where smoking is not allowed in the city but you will not find there anything about smoking in city parks.
So what you’ll need to do is scroll down further under the same category “Health and Safety (08)” and find where it says “08.76 Park code.”
Click on that.
Once that screen opens you’ll need to scroll and scroll and scroll until you come to “08.76.168 Smoking and Tobacco Use.” If you go to or past “Bathing, Washing of Clothing or Animals” you’ve gone too far.
There, finally, you’ll come to the very sentence – the only sentence, the only sentence among hundreds, if not thousands – that you’ve been looking for that in no uncertain terms, in easily understood language, spells out in all of forty words where you can and cannot smoke in Lakewood Parks.
But will you find this simple statement anywhere, posted on anything, in the actual Lakewood Parks themselves? So that users of tobacco and abusers of their bodies can know what law they are violating and what damage they’re doing to themselves and others?
One sentence. Forty words.
Would it be, to use Barth’s words, “overreaching common sense” to do at least what she and the majority of the council promised – that there would be “a campaign listing health risks associated with tobacco use” – beginning with posting the appropriate warning at the park not just buried deep in a near-secret code?
Or could it more likely be, now that we’re mid-Summer and in the second peak season of park users since the law was passed, that there never was an educational and enforcement plan in the first place?
Post-script: There is a short-cut as it turns out for folks in the future who can’t find when on the actual premises what violations they are guilty of and being warned about or cited for. There’s a “New Search” box – kind of like a treasure hunt – on the left hand side of the Municipal Code page once you have it opened. If you had clicked that and typed in “smoking in parks” you’d have been taken directly to the forty-word ruling.
But not like a common-sense-posting-it-on-the-park-entry-itself easy.