04 September 2009

Maybe Not The Best Argument

Effective the first of this month, Denver has greatly increased its fines for repeat dog leash law violations (now $150 plus $30 court costs for second offenses and $300 plus $30 court costs for further offense), while removing first offenders from the court system entirely with an effectively identical fine (now $80 with no court costs). Before it did this, the Denver Environmental Health Board gave notice and held a hearing on August 24, 2009 to hear opinions about the proposed changes.

While most people who came to the hearings were against increasing the fines, not all of those making arguments to the board were able to think like a lawyer, or for that matter a lobbyist. Let me illustrate with a question in the format used on the multi-state bar exam, that most of the law school class of 2009 took a few weeks ago.

Which of the following is the least persuasive argument for not increasing fines for repeat leash law violations?

a. New York City's Central Park operates on a leash free basis twice a day, every day, without ill effect (made by Lisa Gilford).

b. Hundreds of responses to an off leash on line survey called for postponing the decision on increasing off leash fines (made by Dr. Charlie Garrison).

c. Fines should not be increased during a recession (made by Philip Edwards).

d. "I have been to doggy court 30 times. My neighbor called the dog catcher on me when I was with my dog off leash[.]" (made by Catherine Duke).

(Source: Robert Lorenz, The North Denver Tribune, September 3-16, 2009 issue, page 1 in the print version; the Tribune offers counterbalance for cat lovers with a story about Kean and Magnolia, two North Denver felines).

Feel free to provide your answers in the comments. You may be lawyer material.

No information is available at this time regarding the position that would have been taken by Northwest Denver dog Sarah, the only dog in Denver ever to have run for municipal office, on this issue. Maybe Square State diarist Something the Dog Said could volunteer some typing to let the public know the answer to this pressing question. George in Denver, Sarah's human guardian, definitely has some opinions on the subject of leashes.

Notably, Denver does not have an elected dog catcher, the American political lexicon's proverbial lowest level politician.

Also, one reason that Denver is under pressure to increase off leash fines is that fine increases are not subject to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) which requires governments in Colorado to seek voter approval for tax increases, while general taxes are subject to this requirement. Most local governments in Colorado have, by popular vote, discontinued a ban on revenue increases from existing taxes, a process known as "deBrucing" but, remain subject to the TABOR ban on tax rate increases without voter approval. The term is derived from TABOR's leading advocate, Doug Bruce, a man whose service in public offices has been an utter debacle, but who has had a profound movement politics influence the Colorado politics of public finance through the state's initiative process and litigation.

1 comment:

George In Denver said...

Andrew, happened to be browsing a bit and came across this post. I let Sarah take a look at it. She opined that, most likely, option "D" is the "least persuasive" argument. Her reasoning was based upon the fact that a human parent who has traipsed to doggie court 30 times for apparently disregarding local leash laws, is a human parent who should be drawn and quartered--Yes, I wasn't aware of Sarah's knowledge of such things, but she continues to amaze me. In fact, she suggested this particular human parent is not deserving of four-legged children, and the ASPCA should investigate.

Several days ago, my neighbor had her cats outside, both of them lolling on the front lawn as she dug weeds from her lawn. Along came a cretin who had let her Rottie off-leash, and the inevitable happened. The Rottie rushed the cats. My neighbor was able to grab one cat and put it in the house, the other cat escaped into the overgrown foliage of her next door neighbor's back yard. My neighbor was in tears--he children are cats, not dogs. Happily, the "lost" cat was found two days later.

Sarah views this whole thing as a "human" issue. And, she believes human failings are many, including the tendency of so many to believe their PC tendencies to allow their dogs "freedom" from the leash, is essentially a misunderstanding of the nature of dogs. She reminded me that we're all--dogs and humans included--subject to primordial responses. And, if a human parent doesn't understand such things, then that human parent OUGHT to be brought to doggie court 30 times; ought to be, as Sarah suggested, drawn and quartered...not to mention subject to increased fines for their ignorance.