Following the issuance of a press release, Linda and I, as representatives of GiN, were invited on Coby Mach’s Drive Time Lincoln radio show. That press release and our discussion echoed and expanded upon the concerns of Nebraska Right to Life about City of Lincoln officials’ treatment of the Occupy Lincoln group as compared to the treatment of other groups. We also talked about the problem, generally, including confusion about the City’s attempt to explain the inexplicable and about City ordinances. Note that the conversation occurred against a back drop of “breaking news” about Occupy Lincoln’s encampment, which I will highlight shortly.
I’ve provided links to the podcast files for those who did not catch the show live. If you have difficulty with the files, see the footnote[1. Alternative link with both GiN and NE Right to Life listed, NE Right to Life first, Alternative link with both GiN and NE Right to Life listed, NE Right to Life first; If neither of the provided links works to play the podcast files, both of the appearances are currently listed in the show’s page: Drive Time Lincoln Podcast Page.].
Following our appearance, Julie Schmit-Albin, Nebraska Right to Life’s Executive Director, spoke with Coby regarding her organization’s concerns.
What About Burning Ordinances?
As ordinances go up in flames – almost literally – it seems like a bit of an inferno, doesn’t it? Let’s have a nostalgic and very enjoyable musical interlude, shall we? I say, why not a “Disco Inferno”? (E-mail subscribers, click HERE to boogie!)
Why disco now? To quote Linda’s perfect articulation of the idea…
“I laugh because I must not cry, that is all.“
What about those ordinances, then?
For that, we’ll turn to some information revealed by a caller on Drive Time Lincoln following Julie’s appearance. The caller, named Jerry, said he works at the State Office Building, which faces west onto the Centennial Mall. Jerry listed a number of his own concerns about the Occupy encampment, starting with trampled grass; he wondered whether or not the Occupy group was going to be assessed costs of repairing the sod. Coby recited the response he’d received; the expense of a lawsuit by the Occupiers was greater than the expense of replacing the sod.
Jerry also mentioned that he’d noticed a Husky dog had been left leashed to one of the tents, unattended by anyone, and he about liability if the dog bit anyone. Since we cannot talk immediately to Jerry, who really knows the level of danger? Jerry’s pointing out of a list of actual and potential ordinance violations, while seemingly petty to some people, I’m sure, is actually a healthy and normal response from a man of common sense. Please hang onto this thought, as I definitely intend to return to it.
For the moment, let’s just focus on whether or not hitching an animal up and leaving them unattended is indeed, a violation of the law.
IF the Centennial Mall is a park, the answer is simple. An ordinance in Title 12 (governing City Parks) of Lincoln Municipal Code currently on the books, reads as follows:
“12.08.240 Fastening or Hitching Animals.
It shall be unlawful for any person to hitch any horse or other animal to any tree, shrub, fence, railing, or other structure, except such as are provided for that purpose, or to allow any horse or other animal to remain unhitched beyond the reach of the driver or attendant in any park. (P.C. § 12.08.160: Ord. 3489 § 30-116 amended by Ord. 5775 July 12, 1954).”
IF the Centennial Mall is…property which is…something…”public” (we’ve now lost track of what City officials’ say it is this week)…whether it is a “public””right-of-way”, “access area”, or “property”, the answer is also simple under yet a different section of ordinances, specifically, Title 6:
“6.04.330 Tethered Animals.
It shall be unlawful for any person to tether, chain, or fasten any animal in such a manner as to permit it to be upon any public sidewalk or street or to leave it unattended while tethered, chained, or fastened on public property. It shall be unlawful to tether, chain, or fasten an animal in such a manner as to cause it injury or pain or not permit it to reach shelter, food, and water. (Ord. 15515 §33; April 9, 1990: P.C. §8.71.330: Ord. 14955 §33; August 22, 1988).”
Jerry ended his list of concerns by reporting that a friend’s co-worker went out of the State Office Building and took a picture of a tent that appears to be used by the Occupiers as a toilet facility.
IF there IS a tent-toilet facility in the Occupy Lincoln encampment, seems like it might violate the following ordinance:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to urinate or defecate on a public street, alley, or any other property, public or private, open to or visible to the public.
This section shall not apply to urinating or defecating in any restroom facility in a manner for which that facility was designed. (Ord. 16119 §1; May 26, 1992).”
A tent as a toilet facility on the Centennial Mall seems like a problem – I dunno – whadda ya’ll think? Maybe I’m just too dumb too understand why it’s not.
But wait – there’s more!
Back to the “breaking news” I noted above…
Last week Occupy Lincoln erected a large tipi structure within the encampment which reportedly emitted profuse amounts of smoke on Monday evening (11/28), prompting a call in to the Lincoln Fire Department. We’re only aware of this incident because on Monday evening, we were told by someone who was listening live to Drive Time Lincoln when Coby received the report off air. Unfortunately, that report was not part of Monday’s podcasts.
Fascinatingly enough, no other media sources have reported the incident to the best of our knowledge (we’ve looked, asked some others to keep their eyes peeled). We even predicted that this would be the case (downright prophetic, aren’t we?), so a few GiN folks[2. Since a bit of reconnaissance to the Occupy encampment is a helpful thing, we’ll just leave some references about the “who”, specifically, from GiN makes / has made trips downtown, generic.] made a trip downtown about an hour after we’d been notified (wish it could’ve been faster, but hey, our lavishly paid evening crew didn’t get it in gear fast enough ;-) ). When that “crew” arrived on the scene, all was quiet, except – there was smoke lingering in the air.
Why did we suspect there would be no news reports of the incident? History. Although there has been plenty of TV coverage for the Occupy group, our local “newspaper of record”, Lincoln Journal Star, seems the dominating media source in the City, and the one most focused on politics and government.
LJS has been covering groups in the same disparate way the City of Lincoln has been handling them. We’ve observed coverage of Occupy Lincoln since before their first event on October 15, and, we’ve observed coverage of other groups. Course, we, uh *cough*, know a great deal about the details of how of one of those “other groups” has been covered.
Are we whining? Absolutely not. We’ve just discarded the myth that there is any such thing as objectivity in this mix. The “we” is those of us at GiN. Speaking only for myself, I’d take it a step further: I don’t even think there should necessarily be any expectation of objectivity. Why? It isn’t reasonable and isn’t realistic. The Journal Star, is, after all a private enterprise, and its owners and management should be entirely free to publish or not publish whatever they like, however they like, whenever they like. The only problem with that idea, of course, is if too many readers cling to the myth of objectivity and tell themselves events are reported in full.
Such readers would have no idea that there was an incident involving smoke and a fire truck. LJS published a report about the Occupy tipi on their website at 10:00pm Monday, hours after the reports of smoke, yet the entire incident was not mentioned. Why? The story did report City officials were concerned about safety (past tense) and that, in fact, Occupy Lincoln had been “asked” to take down the tipi by Lincoln police.
Police asked? (Blow through a stop sign. See if the police ask you to not do that anymore.)
The Journal Star didn’t have room in its article to report about the smoke OR the fact that a wood-burning stove inside the tipi was the source of that smoke. Apparently, readers of the paper needed to be told an array of many other things, including how sturdy and stable tipis are and that it is very appropriate to have associated with the Occupy movement, because, we were informed, it is a symbol for the first oppressed peoples.
Oppressed? Can someone PLEASE tell me how these Occupiers are being oppressed?
For those who didn’t listen to the podcasts of Tuesday’s radio show, note that the group is not required to have a permit for the tipi because it is under 400 square feet (sounds like it was a close call on the measurement).
BUT, from WHERE did the City pull that standard? Do we all need to learn a secret handshake to have access to Lincoln’s hidden ordinance book that is now being used? Bizarrely, the group was actually cited for not properly venting the wood-burning stove. But, the City Attorney is still chewing on whether or not the wood-burning stove requires a permit or perhaps, whether it may have to be removed.
A WOOD-BURNING STOVE IN A FABRIC STRUCTURE?!
THIS IS A QUESTION?!
BUT – WHY all the citing of ordinances?
Remember I said, above, that caller Jerry’s citation of actual and potential violations was natural and common sense? Jerry’s not too dumb and neither am I, Julie Schmit-Albin, Linda, or anyone else presently scratching their heads.
Julie can’t put up a vinyl banner on two spindly metal stakes without being launched upon like white on rice, but Occupy Lincoln can place the eyesore, below, on Centennial Mall for as long as it pleases. Does that make ANY logical sense? Is that JUST?
When government officials decide that they are going to unequally apply laws in the cavalier and arrogant fashion we’re witnessing now, it’s frustrating. Government’s credibility is increasingly undermined and citizens are put on an enhanced level of alert, and concerns heighten as to just what else a selected, favored few might pull next and what they might get a way with. Citizens, already taxed heavily (and recently, increasingly) how much it might cost us and what might happen in the future.
Julie described how City officials are behaving, they are:
“…[C]oddling Occupy Lincoln, bending over backwards to accommodate them, either we are going to abide by the rules or we are not going to abide by the rules”
From my repetitive, extensive (mind-numbing) read of Lincoln’s Municipal Codes, it truly seems as if there is an ordinance, for virtually every activity imaginable. I wonder…am I violating any of them while I’m writing this? The probabilities are against me. I’m well aware, in other words, that we definitely have problems with our ordinances, and specifically, we have problems with the ordinances impacting free speech. Do I think that’s good or right? Of course not. However, the answer was NOT to enforce bad ordinances in full on citizens who are law-abiding and respectful of authority, then, when problem ordinances are pointed out, throw out ALL the ordinances (and replace them from the secret handshake version), placing an entire section of downtown in some sort of no-man’s-land status, so anything goes for a selected group.
Especially this group. Occupy Lincoln, has definitely received and understood the message sent by officials that anything goes, and they are willing to push for anything. They have now set up a structure with a heat source that is reportedly somewhere near 400 square feet in size (that’s a 20′ x 20′ room). How many of the regular campers can fit in there? Since we know there are not a large number of campers during the week, they could huddle in their warm tipi indefinitely; the warm tipi that we are instructed, is a symbol of oppression.
Occupy Lincoln’s tipi IS a symbol of oppression, alright. First, it’s definitely symbolic of suppressing sense. Beyond that, other Lincolnites’ rights have been oppressed. Occupy Lincoln has achieved their coddled status by grabbing, and they are now signalling, through their tipi, that that they will just keep on pushing. They have taken what belongs to everyone in the City, are making it their own, and expecting the rest of us to pay the bill.
This seems exactly like the DEMOCRACY Occupiers everywhere, and the Lincoln group specifically, has stated they want. Seems like mob rule, alright. May the biggest grabbers, and ultimately, the most brazen thugs, win.
GiN is indeed, a group whose mission, as long-stated, is “to promote a return to Constitutional, limited government”. If anyone thinks we want MORE government, they are sorely mistaken. Our citing strings of ordinances and questioning the inaction of executive branch officials is entirely consistent with our principles and mission. Note that we start with CONSTITUTIONAL; it is the Constitutional duty of executive branch officials to enforce the laws on the books. If there are bad laws on the books, they should be changed, in an orderly manner, so that all citizens will know what the laws actually are.
But former Lincoln Journal Star reporter, Deena Winter, who now works for Nebraska Watchdog, took what seems like a side swipe at us in a November 29 report she dubbed “tempest in a tipi”:
“…city officials don’t want to infringe upon their First Amendment rights. That has angered Nebraska Right to Life and Grassroots in Nebraska (a proponent of limited government), which allege the city is giving the Occupiers preferential treatment compared to other groups.”
Hmm. So “we allege”? We wouldn’t want to talk to us about what we’re alleging, now would we, even though Ms. Winters talked to the members of the Occupy group? Maybe there is some there there. Ah, well. Let’s just let it hang and just take a swipe instead. If you’re remembering what I said about press and expectations, above, you’re thinking what I’m thinking. So, what’s the standard for a non-profit entity like Watchdog? My “private enterprise” paradigm doesn’t apply. Since absence of bias is not realistic, as I said, I guess in the case of a non-profit, the best thing to do is to look at who is funding it, right?
A WHOLE lot of questions remain about this whole subject, so I’ll end for now with a brief list of them, all related to one topic. For a group talking about how they are representing the 99%, these folks sure don’t seem to care that some of that 99% have had their rights infringed and that there is a potential for that into the future. What is the Occupy Lincoln group’s responsibility? They want DEMOCRACY, right? Isn’t that a form of self-government? Are they governing themselves? Are they actually mindful of the rights of others?
I stumbled upon a very interesting, and I think, relevant Thomas Jefferson quote:
“Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” ~ Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany (1819)
But, again, I dunno. Maybe the Occupiers and the City are just confused…because smoke from the wood-burning stove got in their eyes?
Email subscribers, click HERE to watch the video.
Can you help us find Jerry?
We’d surely like to have absolute confirmation of the…toilet tent? and the “art work” to accompany it. If anyone knows Jerry, we kindly request that you suggest to him to PLEASE get a hold of us. We don’t need to use a last name, we will consider such a tip as we do many others, via GiN’s Tip Jar policy.