A Tempest in a Fire pit
It's not about campfires.
It is about a council that devotes time and resources to propose another ordinance that is not driven by the needs of the community. Council reasoning is unclear, but in absence of any other explanation beyond clichés, it appears that the proposed burning ordinance is a response to one or two chronic complainers to the detriment of many Bellevue residents.
The recent activity at the council meeting on Tuesday, 5/22/2012, was a vivid demonstration to those in attendance of the mindset, not to mention the shortcomings, of a number of current council members. In the face of overwhelming public opposition to the proposed ordinance, council members, and more disappointingly the solicitor, clearly demonstrated that their minds were made up and that the citizens in attendance just didn't understand how good the council was at protecting us from an as yet undemonstrated problem in air quality due to backyard fires on private property.
Missing from the remarkably thin explanations provided during the council discussion were answers about the following:
Is there any air quality study that supports the need?
Did anyone confer with the Fire Department pro-
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fessionals? If so, what is their opinion? (Actually, we found out at the meeting. They were not consulted and they do not support the ordinance)
How many incidents or complaints involving backyard fires were reported in the last year, or five years?
Is the source of any offending smoke solely from backyard fires? Is the offending fire in Bellevue or a surrounding community?
Was there any analysis done about the impact on emergency services or code enforcement workers?
What is the cost of maintaining and enforcing this ordinance? Will additional hiring be in the future?
Clearly, the council did not do its homework.
According to the solicitor the main reason for putting this forward is just a simple matter that "everyone else has an ordinance." In fact, he said that he has already written the same ordinance for two or more other communities. Is the Bellevue proposal identical? If so, did we pay for a third cut-and-paste version of someone else's document?
The argument is not against clean air. Of course we all want that. We already have it. If a few people think they have respiratory problems, there may be remedies for them -- perhaps the council can consider providing assistance for that if they do not have the means, but only if their problem is shown to be the result of Bellevue smoke, and not just a life issue unfortunately thrust upon them. Or worse, a dispute with neighbors disguised as a public health issue.
Public opinion is clear. This draft ordinance should be put in a drawer and used only as a reminder to any future council of the nonsense that can occur when inadequate analysis drives a solution to a problem that does not exist. If that lesson is learned, this could be a valuable step toward the council being taken seriously some day. As it stands, this entire fiasco only confirms what I have heard from numerous residents and business owners -- that the council is the most significant obstacle to constructive growth and development of the gem that is Bellevue.
It's not about camp fires. It's about the freedom to be left alone.
Eugene R. Supparits