Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Grass It Is A'Growin'

Watch out Villagers the Grass Police are taking prisoners! Or, well, at least threatening imprisonment! My lovely lawn guy (yes, I have a lawn guy!) (and he is lovely!) has informed me that the village sent out at least three of these letters in the past week, and those are just the ones he knew about.

1) First off, in my world we capitalize the "P" in New Paltz.
2) Does the village really need to yell in ALL CAPS in bold and italics and underlined about the need to remedy the situation IMMEDIATELY!
3) Does the village really need to threaten "fine or imprisonment or both" for this offense?
4) I spoke to (confidentially, due to the extreme social stigma) two high grass offenders (high grass, now that's funny) and neither were notified by phone or any other more personal way of warning before receiving this overly formal, overly harsh form letter. I thought we lived in a quaint little village in which we can expect neighborly, intimate relations (funny again) with our government... Guess not.
5) I have to wonder if we spent more tax dollars policing this and filing paperwork and paying postage than we generated in revenues gained from the fines.
6) Have you seen the code - do you know how tall your grass is legally allowed to grow? Guess what, 3 inches:
124-1. Maintenance of Grass Lawns
Grass shall not be allowed to grow in excess of three inches. This provision shall not apply to land under cultivation, naturally wooded areas or undeveloped areas which are at least 200 feet distant from any occupied building or residence.

Now that is just crazy silly for so many reasons, not the least of which is the burning of fossil fuels on a much too frequent basis for pretty lawns.
7) What is the big picture question here? Are we resorting to taxing quality of life issues in order to beef up the budget in these recessionary times? Jeez, that would be really pathetic.

(I got a parking ticket the other day at the municipal lot - the machine would not take money before 9:00am, I was there at 8:30am and was not able to run out and put money in the machine at 9:00am. My silly day job has prevented me from getting down to Village Hall to contest the ticket -- what do you think my chances are?)

kt Tobin Flusser


Terence said...

I agree that, if you're going to have a lawn-length law, that a maximum of three inches is plain silly. You need to allow it to grow to at least that length if you want to choke out the crab grass!

To rise to the defense of our overly-formal building department: there are supposed to be two building inspectors, but the department is understaffed as they try to find a suitable candidate for the open position. One inspector must check violations, issue citations, process planning board applications, and a whole host of things. Making those extra phone calls would add to an already hectic schedule.

But getting back to the lawn law . . . I've gotten that same notice when the blue cornflower blooms, and that isn't even grass!

Anonymous said...

WOW. I am glad not to live in the village for a lot of reasons, but this just moved to #1! We have about 3/4 of an acre of lawn to mow, and an electric plug in mower that only mows for 1/2 hour or so before needing a charge. So, we mow some of the front and side (visible) parts of our lawn and leave the rest to become a wild jungle where I frequently go to pick wild edibles. I would be so sad without my patch of homegrown wilderness, how horrible that villagers can't have this option. As KT pointed out, our ridiculous obsession with stupid green ugly monoculture lawns (she pointed it out in a nicer way, since she is a nicer person than me) has contributed in no small part to overuse of lawn chemicals and gas for all those dumb mowers--argh!! Also! What if you forgo a lawn and have a garden, would the village give you a citation for growing food??

Bill Mulcahy said...

I think the "rock sculpture" is a death trap for any child or stoner who can climb into it and have it collapse on them. I wonder who would have the legal liability for it in a lawsuit?

kt tobin flusser said...

T -

If the inspector, or whomever is standing there looking at the lawn, is right there seeing the infraction with their own eyes, couldn't they knock on the door with a friendly arning about the lawn? Why do they then need to go back to Village Hall and mail out a form letter?


Steve Greenfield said...

" that you have allowed the grass on your property has grown..."

Obviously you aren't getting your money's worth from your Village Grammar Inspector, either.

But seriously. If you're short on inspectors, why not tell the inspector that you're going to concentrate on electrical violations, or faulty furnaces, or inadequate heat, or peeling lead-based paint, or things that really matter, and wait on the grass until you're fully staffed? Isn't this how you allocate scarce resources, that is, use them where they do the most good and let the petty stuff go?

That's what I see as the real issue here. It parallels much of what's been plaguing Village government in recent times. It doesn't seem like anyone examines what's essential and what's discretionary, and then indexes the essentials by elements of seasonality, time sensitivity, relative importance, marginal performance from last dollar spent, etc.

And if people are actually figuring that stuff out, then they're doing it all wrong and have innovative definitions of words like "essential" and "priority."

And THAT'S why so many people are so angry right now. The grass notifications are a symptom, not the problem itself. A pretty glaring and amusing symptom, but a symptom nonetheless. The problem has to be fixed.

Martin McPhillips said...

Yeah, I think this grass thing, and all the attendant symptoms, needs to be studied, as well, for its foreign policy implications.

Don't let it go to waste.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what's happening to the universe, but I agree with Steve's comments on two posts in a row. Is there hope for us after all?

On the other hand: Bill, is it your intention to ruin everything fun in New Paltz, or just mostly everything?

Martin McPhillips said...

That reminds me, Lagusta (and I know you can't stand sports stuff, other than professional wrestling, but bear with me), of the time that Casey Stengel and Mickey Mantle were both called to testify before a Congressional committee about the antitrust status of major league baseball.

You might not be familiar with Casey, but he was a true original who would just go on in this language that came to be known as Stengelese, really quite charming (so the comparative here isn't really on point).

Anyway, Casey rambles on in this long answer to one of the questions, no one has a clue what he's talking about. It's just total befuddlement.

Then the Senator (or Congresscritter, I don't recall which side of Congress held the hearing) turns to Mickey and says, "So what's your view on this question, Mr. Mantle?"

And Mickey says with his impeccable Okie deadpan, "I agree with everything that Casey just said."

Agnes Devereux said...

"We discovered one afternoon last summer,that someone had weed wacked the entire side walk in front of our house and at the same time pulled out all the grape vines that grew in and through our retaining wall. I was so disappointed -we loved to put the grape leaves under the cheeses on the cheese board...but the oddest thing was nobody knew who did it. The building deptartment denied involvement...then a neighbour told us it was the department of public works. Further inquiries as to who ordered it done were met with...nothing. Then the building Ispector suggested we should cut back our rose bushes. The only sections of our picket fence that have not been severely vandalized are those that are covered in thorny rose brambles - a more effective preventitive than living across the street from the New Paltz Police Dept."

Anonymous said...

Oh Agnes, that just breaks my heart! I have lots of grapevines, so if you ever need any grape leaves just let me know.

Martin: of course, Steve blathers on endlessly and it gets really annoying, as does his general demeanor, but if you just read, say, the first sentences of everything he writes it often makes sense. I call it reading between the ego.

Anonymous said...

As an inspector myself, I need to say that violations of this type are usually issued in response to neighbor complaints. Someone will come in, cite the law, and tell us that it is not the inspector's right to pick which code items are enforced. While all on this site can righteously pontificate, try to imagine it where the rubber meets the road. If you don't like the laws, get them changed if enough people agree with you. You should praise the lone inspector for doing a super human job while the political process delays hiring the second position. No, I do not work in New Paltz, and I would not! People are too crazy here.

Martin McPhillips said...

"As an inspector myself, I need to say that violations of this type are usually issued in response to neighbor complaints."

Yes. That's what I was guessing to be the case. Sometimes it's probably justified (the in-laws or the boss are coming over and the neighbor hasn't cut the lawn all summer, for instance) and sometimes it's busybodyism, the small town sport of choice.

Agnes Devereux said...

When code is enforced because an individual complains isn't that known as capricious enforcement? When we were under consruction of the restaurant I had a banner made at PDQ - "Coming Soon ect". I received a call from the Village Building Department, it was in violation of signage code and they had received a complaint. A quick look around the village revealed banners everywhere - Budweiser banners, Under New Management banners. A the time I took it down but later research proved I didn't need to - capricious neforcement.