Monday, September 13, 2010

On Chris McGregor's hair in Godley Texas, and signs with more than 10 colors in Cleveland Ohio

From Reason magazine's "Daily Brickbats" column:

Officials at Godley Middle School in Texas have placed 12-year-old Chris McGregor in in-school detention until he cuts his hair. The school dress code bars male students from having hair below the shoulders, and McGregor's locks are too long. Superintendent Paul Smithson says the rule helps reduce bullying. You see, students who stand out in some way might be teased or picked on, said Smithson. "And all of a sudden we have a problem."

A San Antonio news station has Smithson's complete quote:

"Bullying's a big thing, and we want to make sure everyone's dressed appropriately, someone doesn't bring attention to themselves so that someone says something to them, and all of a sudden we have a problem."

Mr. Smithson is probably a great guy, but he's been put in charge of enforcing unnecessary regulatory mess that was probably written as a response to the hippie movement in 1968. 

I just happened to read this next exchange in the latest issue of Reason.  Here are Reason editor Nick Gillespie, TV funnyman Drew Carey, and The Cleveland Ohio City Council, discussing Reason's recent video series "Reason Saves Cleveland", in which Carey and other libertarians make some helpful suggestions about keeping Cleveland from going under

Councilor Zack Reed:   I’ll give you a great example. It leads right into what you’re saying. There’s a gentleman in the city of Cleveland who is a very successful businessperson who now works for one of the nonprofits. He owns a business in the city, and he wants to put in a $20,000 sign, because he’s trying to bring up his business. He applied for a variance to do it. This is what he says—I’m just going to read it because it’s pretty short: “If we have to go to the zoning review board, I understand that it may take 60 days for approval. That is simply too long. I applied for a variance on 4/21. Based on the progress to the day, I will have my sign installed by 9/1.…The summer will be over. The car wash will have lost more money. This is the kind of stuff that hurts Cleveland and puts people out of business. It’s just ridiculous. I need the variance to be approved ASAP so that the sign can be manufactured and I can have some hope of getting the sign installed before the summer’s over.”

Carey: That’s a lot of money for a car wash owner in Cleveland who can only be open in the summer.

Sweeney: Let me give some context to this. If you apply for a sign that’s within our regulation, it would take somewhere between three and five days. If it’s outside the regulations, it needs to be [no bigger than] four foot by eight foot, no more than two or three colors. If you want to go 10 by 10, and put it up a little bit higher, and have 10 colors on it, you have to get approval to go outside the variance.

Carey: Why does it matter how many colors are on it?

Sweeney: It’s one of the regulations we have.

Carey: Get rid of it.

Sweeney: Got it. But what I was trying to get at, the three to five days is if you stay within the regulations, if you agree with them. If you want to go outside, it’s six weeks to put it on the calendar and have it heard. And then all the other steps.

Carey: You should be able to put up whatever sign you want, man. If it’s your business.

Reed: But understand, you can say that simplistically. We can’t say that because there has to be some type of structure.

Yeah, otherwise people would be putting up signs with more than 10 colors. 
You can hit the link above to read a transcript of the entire meeting.  High comedy breaks out several more times. 
I think our bureaucracies are willing to go to the wall to defend their old unnecessary regulations just to avoid admitting that it was silly to enforce them in the past. 

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