As far as I can tell, just about every media outlet in the Pittsburgh region has covered the debacle that is the recently vetoed burning ordinance of Bellevue Borough. And most are asking the same questions, “Why does Bellevue Council feel the need to regulate our grills?” KDKA, WPXI, WTAE, writers of the Post-Gazette and the Tribune Review, and others are running with this story because of how absurd this entire thing has become. Instead of capturing the media’s attention over how Bellevue has taken creative and exciting steps to attract new home owners and entrepreneurs, Bellevue is the news because our council thinks its primary job is to protect us from ourselves.
No one questions the fact that burning toxic or dangerous materials should be regulated. No one is bothered by giving our police or fire marshal the leverage they need to enforce common sense issues like putting out an open flame that is too close to a structure or spewing harmful fumes throughout the neighborhood.
However, most people with common sense and a willingness to speak up are very concerned about our council’s attempt to reach into the lives of private citizen’s wanting to cook on their grill on their decks. The current ordinance threatens residents with a fine of upwards of $1000 and/or 30 days in jail if we cook our hot dogs a few inches too close to our houses. The current ordinance requires that I invite the local fire marshal onto my private property to inspect my grill before I grill up some chicken. The current ordinance enables disgruntled neighbors to threaten legal action against me if they are annoyed by me hosting a cook out.
This is the reason for the media’s attention. This is the reason so many are getting involved at the council meetings and making their voices heard. And yet, the current members of the council smugly respond with “We’re smarter than you” statements. When will the insanity stop?!
If our council spent this much time exploring solutions to currently un-enforced code violations on rental properties, perhaps we wouldn’t need to knock down old, decrepit apartment buildings. If our council spent this much time exploring solutions to our steadily declining business district along Lincoln Avenue, perhaps we wouldn’t be waving goodbye to yet another passionate business owner. If our council spent this much time exploring solutions to the lack of involvement by the community at large, perhaps we wouldn’t have so many disenfranchised residents who are simply waiting for the perfect opportunity to get out of dodge.
Council, we encourage you to consider your actions. Your job is not to legislate and regulate common sense issues in our community. Get rid of the grilling portion of this ordinance. Amend the burning ordinance by removing any and all references to outdoor grills. If this bill is not amended, then we strongly suggest you not override the mayor’s veto. He vetoed it for a reason. Please remember that you serve Bellevue residents, do the right thing, and actually listen to the myriad of people who are very upset about the overreaching nature of this bill. Do not allow ego or pride to blind you to what you are doing. Finally, and most importantly, we encourage you to move on from this largely irrelevant issue and put the same amount of time and effort into the things that might actually make a difference in our community.