Category Archives: Bureaucracy

My American family

Like many Jews in America, my grandfather survived concentration camps in Nazi Poland and Germany to arrive here in hopes of making a new life during the 1940’s.  It wasn’t a hospitable time (to put it mildly) and as part of his journey towards citizenship, my grandfather joined the merchant marine.  The rules for citizenship were supposed to be straightforward — serve 3 years in the US armed forces or 5 years in the merchant marines and you would be eligible for citizenship.

Give us your service and get citizenship in return.  Except that a little more than two years into the merchant marines, the army decided to take him and send him to Europe to help the war effort as an interpreter.  He spoke several languages and they thought he could be put to better use.

Except when his five years was up… Continue reading

When Teaneck met Lord Chesterton (on reducing bureaucracy)

For several years I’ve been working at revising certain sections of our Township code. One of the sections I’ve focused on, concerns our sign ordinance and specifically, “uniformity”.

Teaneck’s Code Sec. 33-18(c)(5)(e)(6) reads:
Uniformity. Business signs for each occupant in a building with multiple occupancies shall be uniform and compatible in height, placement and design and to the extent possible color and letter font type.

In the back of my mind whenever I ask to remove or alter a statute or ordinance that we have on the books is the parable of Chesterton’s Fence1.  The ordinance was created for a reason, after all.  And unless one understands the history and background, removing it may make you understand that the alternative to bad can sometimes be worse.  This wasn’t something taken lightly. Continue reading

Supporting the unpopular because it’s [a] right.

On Tuesday, May 23rd, the township council is set to pass ordinance 13-2017  (“An Ordinance Regulating Roadway Solicitation by Charitable Organizations”) on second reading.  On its face, it’s a minor ordinance that probably wouldn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers, let alone raise alarm.  But it’s likely an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment and this should not be permitted to pass without inspection.

The issue begins with the state of New Jersey’s statutory ban on solicitation for money in roadways.  The statute has an exemption for towns to permit charitable organizations to collect funds in roadways, if they so desire to enable the exemption.

You can find the State statute (NJSA 39:4-60), here. It says, in relevant part: Continue reading