This past year our city has spend all sorts of time worrying about whether a racetrack was important to our life or not. Apparently it required so much energy and attention from our city officials in creating new legislation that they couldn’t be bothered with monitoring existing legislation to be sure it didn’t expire.
This morning we learned from the Tennessean that the juvenile curfew ordinance not only had expired, but had expired 6 months ago and not a single person noticed. Kids continued to be prosecuted under the ordinance, in violation of their rights (legally, they had done nothing wrong), and while in the whole scheme of things it is a minor inconvenience, it becomes another symbol of incompetence for Metro government at all levels — administration, legal, and the Metro Council. At a time in which city leaders continue to lift up juvenile crime as a problem and priority, not attending to one of the basic, first line tools in the arsenal to combat that problem is a serious mistake, not to be simply laughed off (as the Tennessean seemed to do) but to be evaluated so that this won’t happen again.
What is amazing to me is that someone in our city — at Metro Legal, in the Council office, the legal council for the Police Department — doesn’t have a database of the Metro Code with some sort of warning system or notification system regarding laws and ordinances that are time limited and due to expire. We live in a world where a simple Google calendar can send us layers of warnings about upcoming events to our phones and e-mails ad nauseum. While I recognize that most governmental entities are at least 10 years behind in regards to technology, it shouldn’t be a significant issue to create an electronic warning system to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
I suppose this irks me because I have a teenager and a kid close to adolescence who feels great pressure to hangout with her friends after hours. While I as a parent certainly control her comings and goings, having the curfew law in the back pocket is a helpful resources that reinforces that I’m not simply a stupid father who doesn’t understand kids today, but rather that our entire city agrees that kids shouldn’t be out after a certain time. If it takes a village to raise a kid, these laws reflect the belief by the village that our kids need to be home by a certain hour.
Frankly, while we are revising the law, I would look at what’s worked and strengthen it a bit. From my standpoint, I think kids need to be in by 10 p.m. on school nights when school is in session, with the only exceptions being travel to and from work, and or being out in the company of a parent or approved guardian. The writers of the new law need to talk to some parents and street cops and get a sense of how they think the new law can be improved.
This raises another question, however. Is there a process for auditing the Metro Code each year in a formal way to ensure that date limited provisions are recognized and proper notice is given to agencies regarding the sunsetting of these provisions? Maybe we need to cut back on a couple of the high paid positions in the Mayor’s office and hire a $40,000 a year paralegal to monitor the code and make sure that our officials are working under the current provisions rather than impeding on folks rights in carrying out laws that no longer exist. It seems to me that we could stand with a few fewer political operatives and benefit from a few more staff members that can look at a calendar.
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