This week’s “FROM WALLINGFORD” is written by my counterpart on the column – Stephen Knight
“ I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” — James Madison, 1788
The tradition of a fireworks show in the Town Of Wallingford will continue this year due to the efforts of Jason Zandri, Craig Fishbein and others who solicited donations from hundreds of residents. And the only obstacle all along that had to be overcome was financial. Never was there any other reason not to continue the tradition. The money having been raised, we now take for granted that the show will indeed go on. After all, who doesn’t love a fireworks display?
With this as a backdrop, I would like to take you to San Diego, California, where I was last weekend attending a family event. As I am wont to do when traveling, I picked up the local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. In it was an article about their fireworks event, and it is a cautionary tale that I think you will find alarming.
For the past twenty-seven years, San Diego has had a fireworks display put on by the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation. But this year, an envirokook outfit named the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation took the group to court, contending the display was a violation of the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act. On May 27th, a superior court judge agreed, ruling that any function that required a permit from the city had to undergo an extensive environmental review — a review that takes up to a year and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The ruling was so sweeping that it would have applied not just to fireworks displays, but block parties, birthday parties and weddings held in city parks, charity runs and thousands of other events. Last weekend, after an incredible public outcry and nationwide ridicule, the judge stayed implementation of her order for 90 days in order that the fireworks show could be held. But after ninety days, unless the ruling is appealed, this ludicrous judicial overreach will be in force.
It has been observed by many that, in the United States, cultural, political and legal changes very often begin in California and then move east. Californians pride themselves on being the leading edge of societal change. If that is indeed so, then what now appears to be just an odd ruling pertaining to one city three thousand miles from here may eventually become the prevailing groupthink everywhere, certainly including the People’s Republic of Connecticut.
The vast and ever-expanding web of environmental laws, rulings and regulations being formulated and carried out by myriad bureaus, commissions and agencies on every level of government used to have a narrow purpose of actually improving the environment. No longer. Those in power still claim this to be the goal, but it is becoming increasingly obvious to even a casual observer that the real purpose is an exponential expansion of the nanny state.
Everyone knows the anecdote about the frog and boiling water, wherein a frog placed in a pot of boiling water will jump out, but one placed in cool water that is then heated to boiling will sit in it and die. For the most part, we live our daily lives, too busy to notice that government is intruding in our existence more and more. But once in a while, we are handed a warning of that encroachment. By sheer accident, Judge Linda Quinn of the Superior Court of California has done just that. It was John Adams, writing to his wife, that suggested we Americans celebrate our independence from an oppressive British government with fireworks every 4th of July. And so we do. What a terrible irony it is, then, that our own government seeks to extinguish such celebrations through the oppression of a crushing, burdensome and intrusive regulatory regime.