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What About This . . .? 7.13.2017

By Wayne William Cipriano

I learned a long time ago that satire just does not work in this column.  And, notwithstanding that lesson, it remains most difficult for me to restrain the satirical nature of what I wanted so much to write concerning a front page story I saw in the Douglas County Herald.

Even after I checked to be sure the paper’s publication date was June 8, 2017, and April 1, I continued to be wary that some sort of literary trap had been set by the paper’s publisher to lure persons such as myself into self-righteous rants regarding the use of the valuable and limited resources of public institutions.

Had I called the newspaper and asked, I might have been given more information about the story and been persuaded that the time and energy spent by the involved persons and offices were worthwhile.  But, in order to enjoy my writing all the more, I elected to avoid any more information that might convince me the actions by all were appropriate – I chose to carry on using only what had been printed.

Of course, you have by now realized that the front page story which so magnetically attracted my attention was “Bamboo Hearing Begins Wednesday In Circuit Court.” I won’t go over the salient points of the story, you can easily read them for yourself, but I would be remiss in my self-appointed duty as cultural commentator (and sequester from myself some real fun) if I were to withhold comment entirely.

I know very little about the law and even less about the biology of bamboo so anything I say in this column (and any other for that matter) must be evaluated in terms of my potential ignorance.

Still, some things seem obvious even to someone bereft of knowledge in both fields, and these things generate (boy, did I want to say “sprout”) questions any of us would have after reading the story:

Has this problem really been going on for years?

How did the Honorable Judge Lynette Veenstra feel about adjudicating a clash between a citizen and the government centered upon the noxious weediness of bamboo?

How did City Attorney Larry Tyrrell feel about the time and research effort needed to bring a court case wherein the nature of bamboo and its relevant effects would become that which impacted his win/loss record not to mention the precedent which could very well be established connected with his name?

I have known the excellent City Clerk Suzanne Welsh for many years, but I have no idea how she would describe her time spent in court testifying about bamboo.

How did Mayor David Norman react when he was asked (or ordered) to attend court to respond to questions about the size and age of home lots and the potential effect bamboo cultivation might or might not have upon those lots?

I believe I can imagine how Ava Chief of Police Reggie Johnson felt about being questioned as to bamboo and perhaps the rowdiness of its supporters and detractors.

Only those lucky enough to attend court that day or those who would delve into court transcripts would know how Ava resident and bamboo aficionado Patricia Davis affirmed whatever position she advocated and to what degree her witnesses, Ross McElvain, David Fleagle, and former city official, Lyle Piland, assisted her.  But, as the case went on after lunch, some reasonable arguments must have been made.

What is a “weed?”  Who decides?

What is “unsightliness?”  Who decides?

And cannot invasiveness be measured by the degree to which a bamboo patch of some years extant has spread against reasonable precautions to contain it, if indeed reasonable precautions have been taken?

And shouldn’t “certain stipula-tions in the city code” have been reviewed, possibly even waived in order to allow a fence –– so much slower growing than a bamboo patch?

I wonder if the newspaper’s publisher was not so interested in provided for scrupulous readers of the front page some entertainment, but was more interested in boosting the paper’s circulation for the next week when the results of the Bamboo Trial might be printed?  With all these and so many more questions arising from the Bamboo Trial, how can the latter even more so than the former not manifest?

In all seriousity, there is a very important principle being bandied about here: the question of the government’s right to visit private property and to have some say as to the use put to that property by it owner.  Indeed, when the government makes rules that validate its right to do so, we must all take a moment and be appropriately grateful that our country provides us with a way to question, seek modification, sometimes even prevent such governmental action.  And though few local courts have the courage to challenge existing legislation, some do –– and the appellate system awaits those which do not.

Perhaps seeing this as an object lesson to those of us who feel government can and often does supersede rational control, and not as a tempest-in-a-teapot exercise squandering time, effort, money and other valuable resources, we can cast the Bamboo Trial in a more intellectually rewarding light.