Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | January 30, 2007

Puh-lease: Spanking, parking, dissent

It’s time for a periodic roundup of news items that make me roll my eyes, shake my head and utter a dramatic, two-syllable “Puh-lease.”

First on my list is the proposal from Assemblymember Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) to make it illegal to spank children under the age of 4. Conviction on a misdemeanor spanking charge would bring a fine of up to $1,000 or up to a year in jail.

Borrowing a headline from the Wall Street Journal’s story, is Lieber willing to put “A cop in every living room?”

If she’s not – and of course she’s not – her law is unenforceable. Unenforceable laws breed disrespect for all laws.

It’s already illegal to abuse children. Do we need laws to enumerate and criminalize the each of the ways its possible to abuse them?

Puh-lease.

Just like the law banning talking on a cell phone while driving was a bad idea because it’s already illegal to drive unsafely – where’s the law banning applying mascara while driving, or the law banning juggling while driving – this law is also bad government.

I’m sure Lieber is well intentioned. But good intentions don’t count, results count. The results of this bill? It wouldn’t prevent child abuse, it would increase disrespect for the rule of law, and it could criminalize caring parents.

Absolutely, let’s punish child abusers. Any parent whose swat on the bottom rises to the abuse level isn’t spanking. Laws already exist to hold them accountable.

Lieber’s proposal is earning head shakes and eye rolls from most quarters. I notice that this bill hasn’t made the legislation or press pages on Lieber’s Assembly web site. Let’s hope it doesn’t make it out of the state house.

***

Downtown Gilroy’s parking woes have me shaking my head. Apparently, some downtown workers are parking all day in prime spots on Monterey Street that are intended for short-term customer parking.

“We have a couple employees down there that don’t care if merchants have a place for customers to park,” Gilroy City Councilman Dion Bracco said. “I think it’s time we make a decision to start enforcing parking … I’m talking about chalking tires and writing tickets.”

Here’s the first thing that has me exasperated: Where are the employers of these scofflaw employees? Tell these folks to park where they’re supposed to park when they come to work. Make parking compliance a part of employees’ job descriptions. If they don’t comply, they don’t have jobs.

Second, I don’t understand why Mayor Al Pinheiro is “torn” about enforcing the parking time limits, as Bracco’s proposing. He says he’s afraid of scaring away shoppers who’ll fear parking tickets.

Puh-lease.

Wildly successful downtown Palo Alto stringently enforces its parking restrictions. It has a complicated zone parking system, tires are chalked and tickets are written.

Customers still come in droves for the attractive mix of compelling shops and exciting restaurants.

Like unenforceable laws, unenforced laws breed disrespect for all laws. Enforce downtown parking time limits or abolish them.

***

I shake my head and roll my eyes whenever I hear someone – such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates – claim that questioning Bush Administration war policies emboldens the enemy.

Puh-lease.

To suggest that Americans shouldn’t debate an issue evokes McCarthyism and worse.

Thankfully, the results of the mid-term elections emboldened our elected representatives. Members of the United States Congress – one of three coequal branches of our federal government – have found their voices.

Republican Chuck Hagel: “These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad, are not beans. They’re real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.”

Democrat Joe Biden: “It’s not the American people or the United States Congress who are emboldening the enemy, it’s the failed policy of this president, going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely, going to war without enough troops, going to war without enough equipment and lastly, now sending 17,500 people in the middle of a city of 6.5 million people with bulls eyes on their back with no plan.”

After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush Administration had unquestioning support for its antiterrorism plans. In Iraq and elsewhere, we’re now paying the price for not asking important questions years ago.

Asking tough questions, demanding honest answers and reasonable plans based on valid intelligence, and requiring careful use of our military personnel is not only our right, it’s our patriotic duty.

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