Governmental Creep Our Industry's Biggest Threat

by by Ron Hall/Editor-in-Chief
4/16/2014

I call it governmental creep. That's creep not as in "creepy," although now that I consider that a bit more, perhaps that's not so far off. But, to be clear, let's consider creep in the sense of slight almost imperceptible movement in a single direction. In the case of government that direction is toward more oversight, more regulation and more meddling. It's inexorable and promoted (ostensibly) for our wellbeing and for our protection. Got it?

At the risk of launching into a rant, let me state that I view government (at every level) much differently than I did when I began my career as a newspaperman in a very different era.

Not that I needed a reminder of just intrusive government has become, but I got one earlier this week, nonetheless. The reminder came in the process of paying a tax bill at the county courthouse located just blocks from my home. Before I could enter the building I was all but physically patted down,  and had all of my possessions scrutinized, down to my car keys, before being marched through an electronic scanner. The experience stood in stark contrast to the many mornings in the 1970s when, as a young journalist, I walked freely into the century-old sandstone building, made my rounds through the offices, chatted with the various office holders and gathered the day's news.

(Youth for all of its creativity, enthusiasm and optimism can also be incredibly naïve.)

Today the local courthouse seems as forbidding (at least to me) as a fortress preparing for a siege rather than as a place where the county's public business is discussed, it's laws adjudicated and its records retained. Armed deputies guard its single entrance, which also serves as the only non-emergency exit. Security cameras cover its  grounds and point into every public space inside the courthouse except for the toilets . . . I trust.

Yes, I know it's all ostensibly in the interest of security and some of you may skewer me for questioning the need for these measures. Even so, I make no apologies. To me at least, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the government is making laws to viewing the public as its servants, and, to some degree at least, a threat as well.

Ok, lest you feel that I'm full of hooey, let me share some examples of how government is sticking its nose into the landscape/lawn service industry. I didn't make any of this stuff up.

You can read more about these particular very recent happenings in this particular Turf enews.

- East Hampton, N.Y., is one of the most exclusive small communities in the United States. It is located on the eastern end of the south shore of Long Island. The village council there is putting together a regulation to limit the time when construction and landscape workers can work in the village. These local lawmakers, apparently in a spirit of congratulatory generosity, have graciously decided that construction and landscaping activities within the village will be permitted from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and until 3 p.m. on Saturdays from June 1 until Sept. 25.

-The city of Georgetown, Texas, is now limiting the amount of irrigated lawn a residential property may have to 2 1/2 times the size of a home's foundation or 10,000 sq. ft., apparently whichever applies. Private property rights anyone?

-The Connecticut Senate recently took a swipe at the prospect of Scott's genetically modified grass by debating whether it should be banned in the state or not. The Round-Up-resistant Kentucky bluegrass that Scotts is testing on the lawns of some its lawn care company owners' lawns is at least a year away from coming to market . . . assuming it ever does. Like a lot of other specious, premature attempts by lawmakers to pander to  please a particular constituency, in my mind at least, the state senators shouldn't be wasting their time deciding what kind of grass people are allowed for their lawns.

I could go on but it's more entertaining depressing helpful to you to keep you up to date on the newest ones. That way when one of these screwball laws turns up in your city or state you won't be surprised and you can push back before it goes into effect.