Good ideas require few words to describe them. The ten best ideas ever to become law are the US Constitution's Bill of Rights. With only 482 words, our country's founders established protections against unreasonable search and self-incrimination, guaranteed the freedom of speech, a right to bear arms, presumption of innocence -- and reserved all other rights to citizens and states any not specifically granted the federal government.
Ferndale's proposed Human Rights Ordinance pretends to be such an idea -- and goes on for 1600 words trying to make palatable a law Ferndale voters have already twice spit out in 1991 and 2000. But Ferndale's Covey Council doesn't take no for an answer. While our district's schools barely perform better than Pontiac's, the city is receiving fewer dollars in state revenue sharing, suffering stagnant home values, foreclosures and a declining population, the Covey Council wants to pass a symbolic and provocative ordinance as though such a thing has any impact on important quality-of-life issues facing Ferndale's citizens.
After establishing that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons (men wanting to be treated as women and women as men) deserve the same enumerated protections for themselves as for blacks, women, seniors, and the handicapped, the proposed ordinance follows a tortuous path through definitions, re-definitions, exceptions, limitations, and finally to penalties.
Councilman Covey and former city manager Tom Barwin like pointing out that Ann Arbor has a similar ordinance -- as though that were the secret ingredient to Ann Arbor's success and their proximity to the University of Michigan has little to do with it. Both should be reminded Detroit has a similar ordinance. Whom did that ordinance attract if Detroit's population falls every time it's counted? Did the ordinance lift Detroit's housing values or scholastic achievement? Attract industry? What other of Detroit's inspired ordinances, that account for their council's national prestige, should we emulate in Ferndale?
If Ferndale wants to attract families, then family-friendly ordinances and enforcement of existing ordinances should be our city's priority. Families don't come to Ferndale in ones and twos. They come with three, four, and five residents per household or more. They come for the schools, the parks and playgrounds, and for a walk-able downtown. Families come for first-class city services and neighborhoods free of blight, vacant lots, abandoned cars, or driveways with two-year-old piles of shingles.
But that's not what this ordinance is about. It's about the Covey Council dressing up Ferndale to be a notch on the garter belt of special interests.
However you measure it, the ordinance is intended to be symbolic. It's for appearance's sake and not our citizens'. Laws drafted for symbolic reasons are laws that shouldn't be proposed at all.
With 482 hastily assembled words, I urge you to vote NO on legislation for looks. Vote NO on legislation for appearances. Vote NO on Ferndale's so-called Human Rights Ordinance.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Vote NO on Human Rights Ordinance
Note: The following article was published in the October Edition of Ferndale Friends, available for free at various Ferndale businesses and delivered to every Ferndale household. It appeared along with a opinion in favor of the ordinance written by Ferndale City Councilman Craig Covey. Should his article appear online I'll try linking to it, or I'll ask Friends' publisher, Stephanie Loveless, permission to reproduce it here in its entirety.