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Mile 181

I may have lost an election, but I haven't lost interest.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Now there's a mouthful. We're going to hear more about it at the federal level: "Right and Left Join to Take On U.S. Over Criminal Justice," today's New York Times headline announces. The article goes on to claim that a rare coalition of conservatives, libertarians and liberals are going to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There are, according to the article, more than 4,400 criminal offenses in the federal code, many of them lacking a requirement that prosecutors prove traditional kinds of criminal intent. How did we get that way?

At least since the Nixon administration, Republicans have claimed to be "tough on crime" and Democrats have been afraid to promote being sensible on crime. Now we find we bought into an expensive and ineffective approach. At long last, maybe we can do something about it.

Here in Oriental, we also have a problem with overcriminalization. Our ordinances are full of misdemeanors (criminal acts that must be prosecuted), with fines of up to $500 per occurrence. I am happy to report that, during my time on the Town Board, we removed one misdemeanor: violation of the noise ordinance section regulating outdoor amplified music. I did that.


  1. Gee, weren't you also the one who tried to sneak a new ordinance through once the meeting room had cleared of everyone who was there for the noise ordinance??

  2. Actually, that isn't what happened. Mayor Bill Sage (as he explained at a later meeting) prematurely ended discussion of the noise ordinance agenda item and proceeded to the next item without asking me or the other commissioners if we were through with that item. I wasn't. The discussion to that point had been entirely theoretical, a lot of arm waving and discussion, without there being a specific text to review and discuss. I wanted to introduce the text of an amendment to the existing noise ordinance so that public discussion could revolve around the actual proposal. What I wanted was more rational discussion. There is a procedure, called laying a motion on the table, which I attempted to use. It is a common parliamentary procedure. I quote from the 4H Club web site concerning parliamentary procedure (I was never in 4H but they have a pretty clear explanation):

    "To Lay On Or Take From The Table

    There are times when there is a reason to delay the decision on a motion. Perhaps there is not enough information to make a decision. The procedure to do this is called "laying on the table". This delays a decision until another time.

    1. During discussion of a motion, a member is recognized by the president and says, "I move to lay the motion on the table".

    2. Once again, a second is required.

    3. There is no discussion permitted. The group proceeds directly to vote whether to table the motion or not. A majority is needed.

    4. To bring back the motion so it can be discussed and acted upon, is called "taking from the table". While in old business, a member says, "I move to take from the table (motion's name)".

    5. A second is required.

    6. There is no discussion permitted. The group proceeds to vote whether to bring the motion from the table or not. A majority is needed. Once a motion has been brought back from the table, it is the next item of business.

    Tip: Generally, a tabled motion comes back for consideration at the next regular meeting. Don't use the motion to table as a way to "kill" a motion."

    Unfortunately, I believe the only person in the room who understood what I was doing was the mayor. For the motion to accomplish what I wanted it to required a second from one of the other commissioners.

    When that effort to make the draft public failed, I had it posted on the town's web site. I was criticized for that, as well. That is one of the reasons I began organizing a blog. It took me awhile to figure out how to create a blog. I'm still learning.