Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Local governments have become battlegrounds between entrenched economic interests (like hotel owners and taxi cab companies) and participants in the sharing economy.
This is a policy issue where city/county administrators should inform the discussion without putting a finger on the scales. One of our responsibilities is to encourage robust public participation. This is why I read a recent Miami Herald news article with a mix of concern and alarm.
“We are now on notice for people who did come here and notify us in public and challenge us in public,” said City Manager Daniel Alfonso. “I will be duly bound to request our personnel to enforce the city code.”
Unless I am misreading this news story, the City of Miami plans to use information provided by citizens engaged in the democratic process to target enforcement. How would Mr. Alfonso feel if he complained about a particular tax policy and found himself the subject of an IRS audit? Yes, there might be a delicious moment of schadenfreude hearing an IRS agent tell him, "I was duly bound to enforce the tax code," but it would be wrong.
Public hearings are an opportunity for civic engagement and civil discourse... not data collection. A person testifying in favor of an urban chicken ordinance shouldn't have to worry about a code enforcement officer peeking over his or her backyard fence the following day. Whatever the public interest in the specific code or ordinance, I'm confident there is a larger interest in protecting a cornerstone of the democratic process.
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