Thumbing through this week’s Irmo News, two stories piqued my interest. An article on page 3 focused on Making Neighborhoods Nice Again. A story on the last page focused on a handicapped woman in our community who is making her best effort to cope with physical impairment.
In the “nice neighborhoods” story our mayor and members of council are being lauded for layering on new and more intrusive ordinances with the purpose of satisfying citizens who have deemed it necessary to bring the power of government down on to others in the community.
The woman who desires to relocate a carport on her property at her own expense is confronting a barrier in the form of existing ordinances. The mayor is unbending – “compliance with the statutes is required” and as a dutiful bureaucrat he cannot yield.
Perhaps we should step back and think about the meaning of “nice neighborhoods”. Someone steeped in bureaucracy might answer neat houses, manicured lawns, and compliant people. An answer couched in Christian terms would think of “nice neighborhoods” as a place where people cope with problems of everyday life assisted by their neighbors in a spirit of fellowship and harmony with as little governmental intrusion as possible.
Is my life somehow better if my government keeps this woman from having her carport in the location which she thinks best serves her needs as a functioning member of our community? Knowing that life is more difficult for her than for myself or many others in the community, do I really care if the shed she builds doesn’t meet every specification of code down to the slightest detail? Is my family harmed in some way if her carport is less than a thing of beauty? I think my life and that of my family is made brighter if someone such as this woman who lives in the same community as my family is able to shop, go to church, visit her doctor etc. with as little pain and inconvenience as possible.
What about the most recent ordinances which as stated are to make for “nice neighborhoods”? If we use the definition of neat residences with well-manicured lawns and unquestioning compliance, then the ordinances are great. However, if we apply a more expansive definition, we likely come to a realization that these ordinances put an ever greater burden on those in our community who struggle and find life a bit more daunting than others in the neighborhoods.
The conclusion of many of us, is that this community has moved further from the goal line of “nice neighborhoods” because new/increased burdens have been put on those going through periods of prolonged sickness, those who have lost their jobs or who are facing diminished income, widows who recently lost that person who they leaned on. Or people like the woman who isn’t able to locate her carport to its most advantageous location. In coming weeks and months, new stories will pop up about people at odds with these ordinances.
Irmo is a great community, but to keep it great while focusing on quality of life issues we need leadership from our mayor and council members thaht gives thought to the full community and not necessarily to those who espouse ever bigger and more intrusive government.