For one, that a local government – like the current battle in Lakewood, Washington – would require inspections of all private rental properties with few exceptions, is a stratagem more often seen acted out during elementary school recess than one would expect to see issuing from the recesses of city hall.
In a word: bullying.
It is as unconscionably a heavy-handed bureaucracy, unreasonably an excessive regulatory bludgeon, to force – yes, that’s the word – all to submit to a cosmetic standard of living (“adequate food preparation space”, “no chipped or peeling paint”) that government has set, as it is “a schoolyard tactic to call out and shame oddballs who aren’t like the rest of the class.”
Even if it works. And it does. “Any school kid would testify to that.”
But, as Dan Jones writes in the September 28 National Review, how government sadly often conducts its affairs is more than just playground politics.
“Politicians in America increasingly push the lazy logic that because a majority of the world does something, we should too.”
A second reason Rental Inspection Programs are fundamentally flawed: Everyone else is doing it.
In a word: laziness.
“Landlords in the smaller cities and towns nearby should be worried,” wrote someone who could read the scrawls on the wall left by red-tagging, clip-board carrying, chalk-artists, aka government- and government approved inspectors that soon will appear at the doors of Lakewood tenants.
The headline just last week, Sept. 21, out of Portland, Maine by Jacob Posik read: “Unlawful rental registries; Coming soon to a city near you.”
Never mind that constitutional protections against “suspicionless searches” are being ‘substantially weakened’.
So what if the ‘alternatives that exist to advance the same cause’ are summarily discarded.
Other cities have gotten away with it. Go with the flow.
But only dead fish float downstream.
Again, from Jones in the National Review: “Mark Twain supposedly said, ‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.’ That’s good advice. Our reptilian brains are vulnerable to crowd psychology that makes going it alone a rather terrifying endeavor. As a result, majorities can stay majorities long after facts have proven them wrong.”
Only one of the seven city councilmembers in Lakewood objected when the vote was taken the night of August 1, 2016 to make law the Rental Inspection Program.
Only one said there were enough programs already to deal with property maintenance issues.
The rest of the councilmembers – the majority – in following the trendiness of Rental Inspection Programs installed and enforced by other cities in Washington and across America, in passing this legislation, denied the public both their rights and responsibilities, and reinforced, once again, government as master, citizens as servant.
In a word: control.
Is there anything lost that matters in such fiascos? When we march in lockstep because the bully is bigger, have we relinquished anything of value?
Yes, says Jones in the National Review: Individualism. Independence. Initiative.
“The mere fact that something is mainstream says nothing of its virtue,” writes Jones.
In America, occasionally, sadly less so it seems, “We have an unspoken tradition that when the government doesn’t do something, we step in and do it 100 times better than the government ever could.”
In a rare but refreshing example, take what happened in Thurston County, Washington, after the winter flooding of 2002 had “deposited a hellacious tangle of logs, roots and branches on the Deschutes River. The 1,200-foot-long logjam diverted the river’s waters onto 22 adjacent lots and threatened more flooding,” reported the Tacoma News Tribune (August 27, 2002).
The commissioners “essentially threw up their hands in despair, deciding to leave the jam in place after spending more than $100,000 studying the problem – the consultant they hired reporting that clearing the river could cost up to $1.6 million.
“Fortunately, the owners of those 22 affected lots ignored the consultant, tackling the job themselves.” A jail work crew was assigned to clear a path along the river; volunteers from a nearby church split the logs and donated them to the needy; and the entire project was completed in less than three weeks – for $8,000, “one two-hundredth of the original $1.6 million.”
In defense of the county, the job they gave up on included $1 million to dig a river bypass channel – which turned out not to be necessary.
Exemplifying the government-exceling-at-the-make-it-more-difficult-and-costly-paradigm, Lakewood initially budgeted the software to support its Rental Inspection Program at $50,000. That recently ballooned to a quarter-of-a-million dollars, “an oversight” said city staff.
What happened in Thurston County could have happened in Lakewood.
In lieu of Lakewood’s Rental Inspection Program, there could have been a roll-up-our-own-sleeves, take-our-own-initiative, give due diligence to our own – admittedly-down-and-dirty responsibility to get done what the government will now force us to do.
But in that the Lakewood City Councilmembers are culpable.
The vehicle they could have used, a bookmobile if you will, carrying the materials throughout the city by which to educate tenants and landlords as to their rights and responsibilities, an option the current city councilmembers briefly considered was – with the adoption of the Rental Inspection Program – instead traded in on a bulldozer that will now plow through and over the entire city landscape.
Of our individualism, independence, and initiative we’ve been robbed.
The thieves have been identified.
“We have met the enemy and he is us,” said Pogo.
The image in the mirror no longer reflects well for the cities which adopt – nor for the citizens who allow – Rental Inspection Programs.
But there is something we can do about it, a place to begin, to restore what matters to a community.
Ballots for Lakewood City Council will be mailed less than a month from now, October 20.
All four incumbents – Brandstetter, Moss, Simpson and Whalen – approved the Rental Inspection Program.
Vote out of office those who have voted to enter, uninvited, your rental home.