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Our Opinion: A law is a law

August 13, 2001

The last thing our county Board of Supervisors should be doing is picking and choosing which laws should be fully enforced and which should not really be enforced by county employees.

As much as we sympathize with non-profit groups regarding a new state law that puts unrealistic regulations on the sale of food items at public events, we are disappointed that county Supervisor Gary Wyatt told county health officials at last week's supervisors meeting that they should consider enforcing the "spirit of the law" rather than the "letter of the law."

If an elected official insists on pushing for such a practice, it would be much smarter to do so privately, and there are good reasons for that.

Let's not even go into the whole matter of county liability if someone got sick from some food inspected by a county inspector who was only enforcing the "spirit of the law." Instead, let's talk about that it sets horrible precedent for Wyatt, fellow Supervisor Tony Tirado and any other supervisors to ask that only the "spirit" of a law be enforced.

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How about, esteemed supervisors, if the folks in county weights and measures just enforce the "spirit" of the law when local consumers are being shorted by a few little ounces per pound on ground beef? How about if our county voting officials let someone who has only lived in the county 20 days vote for county supervisor and do so three times? How about if county ag officials let a rogue farmer use a chemical that might just be just a little, oh, deadly?

We could go on and on, but the point is county leaders should not be telling county employees to not enforce laws.

We also don't like that longtime and dedicated public servants Tom Wolf and Yvonne Smith were publicly admonished for simply doing their jobs right, as they have done for a long, long time. We'll put their records of county service up against any of the supervisors any time.

Let's make this clear. We do not support this overzealous "uniform retail food facilities act." It is a ridiculous law. It makes it unduly tough for non-profit groups to raise money from food sales at events. The community benefits from such fund-raising, and it hurts a community to not have that source of revenue. But the way to deal with a bad law in a democracy is to repeal it or change it, not to tell county employees to kinda-sorta but not really enforce it wink, wink.

The path pushed by the supervisors last week is just dreadful public policy, one that opens the county for all kinds of trauma, turmoil and corner-cutting. Our county leaders should know better.

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