The purpose of this blog series is to begin a conversation about the shifts we hope to see in the soon to be seated newly elected leaders of Bellevue, PA, a shift away from reactive leadership to that with a more proactive approach to governing. Though our community must still decide the outcome of some important elections in November’s General Election, the already overwhelming results of the Primary Election in May tells us this conversation should be sooner rather than later. How can Bellevue’s newly elected leadership take a more proactive approach to governing? We hope to entertain a conversation about this very subject in the days and weeks to come.
Bellevue’s new leadership needs to understand that a functioning borough is one with less restrictions on its people, it’s businesses, its public spaces, and the community as a whole. Bellevue does not exist in a bubble, and the first step to prosperity and success is to open the line of communication and approach the idea of a new direction with creative and “out of the box” thinking and actions. We will not see changes if we keep doing more of the same. Regulations, Ordinances, and Power will not reinvent our borough, they will only force us to continue down the same path that we’re on now.
Over the course of the last 18 months, we’ve seen quite a few instances of bad leadership, bad decisions, cronyism, wasted tax dollars, and favoritism within borough chambers. I’m putting this blog series together to shine a light on the reactive legislation that we’ve seen over the last year and half. Also included are some alternative options that could have been used in place of our leaderships bad habit of passing one unenforceable ordinances or furthering restrictions.
A trend that we’ve noticed time after time is that our elected officials are trigger happy on passing ordinances based on a REACTION to something, someone, or an isolated incident. Rather than coming up with a PROACTIVE way to rectify a problem, they jump straight into passing another ordinance to restrict the people of this borough, to choke out any chance of progress, put a further road block up for our businesses and ultimately take away liberties one tiny bit at a time.
Burning Ordinance – 2012:
A local woman complained of her neighbors holding bonfires on their property and burning toxic materials. Stating that she could not breathe, was having adverse reactions to the burning materials, etc. Totally understandable, no one should be burning tires or plastic in an urban area. Somehow her complaint turned into a debacle of sorts, resulting in the passing of an overly restrictive ordinance banning grilling within 5 feet of ANY structure (on a deck, porch, bushes, a tree, garage, house, etc.). A required visit from a fire chief to inspect and approve of any chiminea, fire pit, grill location, etc. It was included in the ordinance that fire pits could not be within 10 feet of any structure. Liberty in Bellevue conducted some research on this issue – there was not an epidemic of deaths or fires in the borough of Bellevue.
So why such a strict ordinance? The complaint was made by a “friend” of Councilwoman Jane Braunlich and Council President Linda Woshner.
THE ALTERNATIVE, PROACTIVE SOLUTION:
Pass a simple ordinance outlining the items that are legal to burn and the toxic items that are illegal to burn. In a borough e-blast newsletter, issue a PSA outlining the hazards of having open fires near structures, with a list of suggestions for safe burning and grilling. There is not an epidemic of deaths or structure fires in Bellevue as a result of a grilled steak or a Sunday night s’mores party in the backyard. Of course there will be the occasional negligent bonfire host or rouge hot dog griller – but is an ordinance going to prevent negligence – I think not (you can’t legislate common sense). Is it our legislators’ job to save us all from ourselves, thinking of every possible accident and coming up with a coinciding ordinance? If neighbors have an issue with what is happening on private property, having an adult discussion and coming to a compromise on their own is a far better option than restricting an entire borough due to a single persons complaints.
A REACTION to a friends complaint could have easily been dealt with in a PROACTIVE way that uses communication & education while putting the least amount of restrictions on our community members. You cannot legislate common sense, and legislation can’t save us from ourselves (but information/education can!).
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” -Thomas Jefferson