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Laws are meant to be broken

Carolyn SackariasonAspen, CO Colorado

I’d like to think I’m a law-abiding citizen, but our “leaders” in the state capitol and town halls are doing their best to turn me into a criminal.The suits in Denver are legislating us to death. As a result, our local government and police force are expected to enforce the latest law passed. That’s not to say we don’t come up with some pretty stupid rules on our own. With each new law, our freedoms are stripped away. They may seem inconsequential individually, but collectively, these laws erode our quality of life. Thank God not all of them are enforced. But some will.In the name of “public safety,” we can no longer enjoy our own alcoholic beverages on Fanny Hill at the Thursday concerts in Snowmass. In all of their wisdom, the powers that be in Snowmass announced last week that they will ban BYOB starting this summer. Politicos cite public drunkenness and underage drinking as the reason for the new law. Yet, the town marketing department will sell alcohol at the venue. Huh?For the past three decades, town officials have looked the other way and allowed us to break a state law that prohibits alcohol consumption in public. But all of a sudden, the party as we know it is over because the police can’t effectively handle crowd control – or is it because the town realized it was losing out on a money-making opportunity?Clearly, the state law is enforced only when it’s convenient. We’re not supposed to be drinking in public but because we are in a resort town, the cops look the other way quite frequently. To be fair, law enforcement agencies are short on officers, and there is no way all of the laws can be enforced. And that’s just fine with me.The state smoking law passed last July supposedly prohibits us from puffing within 15 feet of any public entrance. If that were enforced, smokers would be standing in the middle of the street and therefore in violation of some other ordinance.If they were complying with the law, our local establishments would remove the ashtrays in front of their buildings. Some have – and by the early morning, the downtown core is littered with cigarette butts. Smokers are once again criminalized because they don’t have an appropriate place to extinguish their butts.A perfect example of arbitrary enforcement is that there is no ashtray in front of Bentley’s, which is in the historic and city-owned Wheeler Opera House. There used to be an ashtray, but management was ordered to remove it. Now, Bentley’s employees must pick up others’ butts every day. A quick bar-hopping session revealed that many places have ashtrays right outside their doors and those that don’t, look like ashtrays.City officials and staffers agree that the 15-foot rule is silly and appears to have had an adverse effect, at least from an environmental standpoint. The parks department, which manages the pedestrian malls, reports that there is a noticeable increase in cigarettes on the ground since the state law.The City Council ought to look the other way and allow these establishments to have receptacles outside. Either that, or give smokers a dedicated place like they do at Coors Field, where addicts are herded into a painted box on the perimeter of the stadium. Or how about a smokers garden at the city’s nexus – the Hyman Avenue Mall and Mill Street.With three smokers on City Council, I am surprised this is an issue. Smokers are trying to play by the rules, so throw them a bone so they don’t have to throw their butts.Another law that appears to be arbitrarily enforced is municipal code 13.08.110, which states that a vehicle cannot idle “for a prolonged or unreasonable period of time determined to be five minutes within any one hour.”But as Lee Cassin, director of the environmental health department, pointed out, the local law is used as an educational tool and is enforced on a complaint basis – like most ordinances that fall under the department’s purview.I guess I need to lodge an official complaint then about all the cars that idle at the S-curves during rush hour for 30 minutes. Throw the book at them. How about our longtime homeless couple that constantly idles its brown van parked across from City Market? Are they immune to the law?And now we read that restaurant and bar workers are supposed to be wearing gloves when they serve us food, according to state law. It’s apparently a health hazard to use your bare hands when squeezing a lime into my cocktail. The state law was passed to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses. I didn’t know there was such an epidemic here. To be honest, I would prefer a queasy stomach to my bartender serving me anything with a latex glove.It’s no wonder these laws are barely enforced; there are so many that it’s impossible for our small city staff to keep on top of them. But people do complain and that’s when local government steps in.”It would take a massive staff to look for all of the violators,” Cassin said. “We don’t have a big enough government.”And why are liquor stores still closed on Sundays? Why can’t we buy booze or wine at grocery stores? Would it really be that criminal to be able to pick up a bottle wine or a six-pack at the store on my way to a dinner party?The amount of sales tax that the state loses is astronomical, as well as the economic opportunities. Aspenites live on the spur of the moment and don’t plan ahead. Just go into City Market on a Monday morning and look at the empty 3.2 beer shelf and you’ll realize how in demand alcohol is on a Sunday, a day dedicated for relaxation. What’s a day of relaxation without a cocktail in the comfort of your own home?And because we can’t buy booze at the market, forget about stores like Trader Joe’s from ever coming to Colorado. If we had one-stop shopping, we wouldn’t be idling waiting for a parking space.Instead of passing new laws, legislators need to start taking the old ones off the books. As the saying goes, “Laws are meant to be broken.” We sure have our work cut out for us here in A-town.Sack is no criminal. E-mail her at csackariason@yahoo.com