T Nation

City Ordinances


#1

The wife and I decided to put up a chain link fence in the back yard. We get the green light from the landlady...after we get a permit. A permit costs us $43. Now, tell me what in the shit I'm getting for my $43? Is a kind city employee going to help me dig holes for 3.5 hours -- the amount of time I have to work to pay for this permit?

No signs need to be put up. No modifications need to be made to the road. What services are rendered? Oh yeah, the fat bitch at the courthouse has a job. I suppose that money also goes to pay the Code Enforcement Officer. I didn't fight for this America. In fact, I think TJ had something to say about this:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

She's getting her money...in pennies.

mike


#2

You get the insurance that some one will not come up to you and say your fence has to come down


#3

City Ordinances and zoning are a real pet peeve of mine. Most people do not realize this, but one of the purposes of zoning and ordinances is to keep building at sustainable levels--ie, not let more houses and businesses be built then the local infrastructure can support. This is often why when some new large business moves into an area it has to expand the infrastructure (add new traffic lights, new roads, etc.) in order to get the proper exemptions and/or ordinance changes. Unfortunately, because generally the local officials overseeing the ordinances and the other supportive bureaucratic stuff--code officials, etc.--are wildly incompetent, these ordinances are not enforced as they should be and often an areas housing and business far outstrips its infrastructure. In reality, money and lawyers talk, and any business with enough money can do whatever they want, the ordinances and zoning be damned. Anyone who lives near an urban area or suburb in this country should know what an epic fail this aspect of zoning and ordinances is.

In any event, but city ordinances and building codes in effect do is just what you've described--making people pay for stupid permits to do things that by no stretch of the imagination require a permit. As for stopping some 1000 unit development going in before adequate land development or infrastructure improvement has happened, ah... forget it. Why worry about that when the local fire department can just pump out basements and people can just sit in traffic for hours?


#4

Amen.


#5

Funny you should mention paying in pennies. In Brick, NJ a business owner attempted to pay his water and sewage bill to the utility municipal authority in pennies and he was told they would not accept it. The police were called and removed him from the premises and he was told if he returns with pennies he will be arrested for trespassing.

The back story here is that regardless of how much water and sewage you use your bill has a minimum. If you only use 1000 gallons quarterly you are still charged for something like 20 thousand. I was unaware it was legal not to accept a form of currency as payment.


#6

I doubt there are laws about what sort of payment businesses must accept. I mean, there are many businesses, including government institutions, that don't accept cash as payment at all (Your local drivers license center is probably one of them). I assume it's up to the business to decide what sort of payment to accept.

I feel your frustration though, because even though it is legal to refuse to accept some forms of payment, it is evidently nonetheless illegal to offer some forms of payment (I hope no one says "but he was threatened with trespassing, not paying in pennies, bla bla bla. I was unaware it was trespassing in any sense of the word to want to pay a bill.)


#7

http://www.treas.gov/education/faq/currency/legal-tender.shtml#q1

The municipal utilities authority is a government institution.


#8

Do you happen to have link to any article about that?

That's insane.

And it's not legal to not accept currency. What assholes.


#9

I'm no lawyer, but see my above post. I believe this is incorrect. Besides, the government does this all the time--just walk into the local driving center. Most likely it's "no cash"--checks or credit cards only.


#10

I was bored one day and was reading the Toms River Observer Reporter and saw this story, I don't know if they are online and have archives or not.


#11

Actually if you read my above post you will see that government agencies have no choice but to accept cash. Until recently in the DMV here in NJ the only form of payment was cash or check. They only recently were set up for CC transactions.


#12

Umm... I did read it, did you read it? There is nothing in the answer that says that government agencies must accept cash. It merely says that: "This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor" and further that "There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services". It is ambiguous on whether or not government agencies must accept cash.

It's great that the local DMV around you accepts cash, the ones around me do not (although it's certainly not unheard of for policies of state and federal agencies to break state and federal laws).

I really don't understand why someone wouldn't accept pennies as payment--it's really not a big deal at all to take the bag of pennies to the bank and deposit them. Since whoever you're paying has to go to the bank anyway, giving them pennies really only inconveniences you, since it is you that either has to go out and get the pennies or count the pennies at your home.

Whether or not giving someone pennies is an effective or clever way to say "fuck you" aside, I still don't think it's illegal for some place--whether private business or government institution--to refuse some form of currency.

Of course as I said I still think it's a bit silly that you could be arrested for wanting to pay in a certain currency. The manager who says "I'm gonna call the cops on you" is just as immature as the guy who thinks paying in pennies is a clever way to say "fuck you".


#13

Snipe, not to make another cop fight, but can you at least understand why some of us get all up in arms about people in your profession when you do this? I mean, if you were to get a call to respond to this, would you ignore it?

mike


#14

If i was a cop and had to respond to BS like this i'd be pissed at both idiots, but unfortunately the person who came to the premises would be the one i'd have to make leave. Courts would have to decide the issue, not a Police officer.

The person could be charged with trespassing. But charging someone is different from convicting. He could be convicted if a restraining order of any kind is served on this person to not come close to this premises. Then the arriving officer could legally arrest. Otherwise it's all a dick swinging contest with the cop caught in a situation between 2 fools.


#15

Unfortunately I would do what I deemed in the scope of my duties. If they wanted the guy to leave I would ask him to leave, but I would also suggest he contact a lawyer and the civil courts to start litigation against the municipal utilities authority for charging him for water that he does not use as well as discriminatory law suit for refusing HIS money.


#16

This would be a major overreaction, no? He's not JUST paying for the water he uses, he's paying for all the infrastructure that brings that water to his house in the first place. The minimum gallon requirement is probably there to make sure the whole system continues to run properly. As for a discriminatory law suit, that's just silly. It still seems that there are no laws requiring anyone to accept any forms of payment they don't want.

Your suggestion would make what is already an absurd and silly situation even more absurd and silly.


#17

Two things. That is your opinion, and since when if I use 1000 gallons of water therefore 1000 gallons of sewage should I have to pay for 10,000. Now I can understand this if you have another option for water delivery but when the market is monopolized by one provider it's not even close to ethical to charge someone for 10,000 gallons when their actual useage meter shows 1,000. They are also midway through a class action law suit where Brick MUA is going to have to repay everyone they have ever overcharged. If I disconnect a utility meter to confuse the utilities of my useage I can be charged with theft of services. Charging someone for something they did not purchase is a fraudulent act.

Have you ever tried to peacefully remove someone who doesn't want to leave an area when every douchebag with a cell camera is waiting for you to pummel him? It's alot like redirecting my 2 year old son when he can't have his cousins lightning mcqueen car.


#18

It's not. The monies collected from water or electric don't go directly back into that utility- the money for infrastructure comes out of the budget. If that's more than they collect, that's more than they collect.

I don't think it's legal to charge a "minimum requirment" for water usage.

I think they're going to win.


#19

You guys are missing my (admittedly minor) point, which is that the cost of water usage is probably not linear. IE, the actual cost of your utility usage isn't given by some easy equation 'cost=N*total used' where N is the cost of providing you with 1 gallon of water or whatever. Since the cost of utilities isn't linear the company cannot just apply some linear price scheme where you pay x amount for each gallon used. Since applying some sort of nonlinear price scheme would really confuse your average costumer and since the real cost of your utilities is probably a steep exponential curve that quickly tapers off at some point, it makes sense for the utility company to charge a "minimum usage" fee. What the minimum usage fee probably is is just some very crude nonlinear pricing scheme that corresponds to the actual nonlinear cost of usage.

Now it might be the case that the utility company is actually making some unreasonable profit because they hold some sort of monopoly, but you certainly can't argue that minimum usage fees are intrinsically unfair pricing scheme. Besides, it's not overcharging anyone if they agreed to pay in the first place. IE, when you hook up to the utility you know there will be a minimum usage fee and agree to pay it. Complaining to a judge about being "overcharged" in this way is like complaining about credit card companies hitting you with fees you agreed to pay when you signed the contract.


#20

I could understand what you are saying if there wasn't a nice little breakdown of cost per gallon plus a delivery fee. The water utility to credit card comparison is weak at best. If I don't want to pay 24% interest I either pay my bills on time or select another card with a much lower rate. In an area where the MUA is the only option that is not an alternative. Not to mention the fact that they just approved a 62% hike in the cost of water per gallon.