Category Archives: Justice System

Don’t Pass Laws Government Shouldn’t Enforce; Don’t Enforce Laws that Shouldn’t Have Been Passed (12/12/2016)

“This city is heading for a disaster of biblical proportions . . . human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together . . . mass hysteria.” – Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ghostbusters

Even if the proposed cooperative housing ordinance is passed, and – unlike the 20 years that followed passage of the last one – people from cooperative households actually prepare and submit applications that the City then approves, the prospect of more than a couple of dozen cooperatives being established in Boulder seems remote. In a community with more than 40,000 households, there just aren’t that many individuals willing to commit to a true cooperative housing lifestyle.

There are, however, many students and adults who might not mind sharing rent in greater numbers than Boulder’s occupancy rules (i.e., “up to three unrelated people”) currently allow. And it appears the clamor is growing for stricter enforcement of these rules. We should hesitate before doing so.

The City should focus its prosecutorial attention on negative impacts observable from public rights-of-way or by reasonable concerned neighbors. We should not, and if we respect our state and federal constitutions, we must not try to count heads on pillows or test the depth or quality of the personal relationships of co-tenants. Blood relations don’t guarantee good neighbors, and the lack of same doesn’t always and everywhere make bad ones.

Our overoccupancy code provisions, based as they are on the behaviorally meaningless blood relationship distinction, may very well be unconstitutional, and they are almost certainly arbitrary and capricious.

Boulder has more than enough – probably, too many – behavioral rules and regulations governing stuff that disrupts or imposes burdens on neighbors. Let’s enforce those. That is enough.

We should not pass laws that should not be enforced. Government has to know its limitations. They are real and they exist for good reason. There be demons. A failure to acknowledge such limits will embolden the neighborhood cranks and officious intermeddlers among us, who seem to have nothing better to do than pry into and judge the lives and activities of their neighbors.

Reliance on complaint-based lifestyle enforcement implicitly authorizes private snoops to go where government dares not tread, feeding a beast we should, instead, starve.

Although the exercise of prosecutorial discretion can mitigate potential over-reach and prevent invasions of privacy, why raise expectations of government involvement when and where it should not be engaged in the first place? Such inappropriate mission creep can cause collateral damage, while it arms complainants with government resources in circumstances where understanding, balance and neighborliness should prevail.

As we try, with increasing desperation, to legislate good manners, we are doomed to either fall short or leap too far. In order to “catch” everyone, we continually add specific provisions to the Code that cover increasingly remote contingencies. Eventually, compliance becomes so complex or expensive that behavior we may have hoped to encourage is prevented. The enemy of good is perfect.

Despite what you may have heard, Boulder is not heading for a disaster of biblical proportions. We need to leave some room for people with good intentions to experiment with living arrangements that do not impose undue burdens on others. Let’s focus on such burdens, not on trying to count how many people may be sleeping behind closed doors.

What Ed Byrne Will Add to Boulder’s City Council (10/1/2013)

Ed Byrne understands planning principles that have stood the test of time: walkable neighborhoods with wonderful village centers that support local businesses, decrease traffic congestion and provide flexible housing options for the elderly, young families and in-commuters.

Focus on Essential City Services.

Boulder’s key city services such as police, fire, transportation, water, libraries, senior centers and parks and rec must be adequately funded to protect our quality of life and to ensure we are prepared for events like floods and fires. I support renewing and reallocating a portion of Open Space sales tax revenues (Ballot Questions 2B, 2C & 2D) as a critical step towards safeguarding our city’s infrastructure and supporting our safety net programs.

Economic Understanding of Environmental Goals.

I will help businesses that support our local economy stay in Boulder by addressing workforce housing and transportation challenges. I will lead the city to improve our commercial codes to attract and retain progressive, innovative businesses that share Boulder’s social and environmental values.

Effective Governing Strategies.

Local governments shouldn’t try to solve every problem with an ordinance. We need to focus our resources where they will do the most good and be more effective. I believe that we should use all the tools in our municipal tool kit including incentives, education and partnerships – because not every problem is a nail.

Vision for the Future.

Thanks to the Blue Line and Open Space acquisitions, and while we pursue a cleaner energy supply, we can now focus on improving our town – the “inside” of our incredible natural setting – with innovative, sustainable and walkable neighborhood design.

Nederland Drug Abuse Tragedy

July 13, 2013

My heart aches for both families. My brain can not fathom how a parent survives either circumstance. Wisdom is hard to come by when faced by such a tragedy.

Young adults are fearless when it comes to risky behaviors. They seem drawn to them like moths towards a flame. Although our educational system tries to help with life skills programs ranging from “Just Say No” to recommendations for responsible use, clearly, neither parents nor schools can meet this perennial challenge alone. Society, generally, and our community, specifically, have roles to play, too (it truly “takes a village”), but ultimately our children, when temptation knocks, will be alone and under great pressure to go along.
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Municipal Code Drafting and Interpretation

March 22, 2013

Tussles between private land owners and government representatives fueled the revolution that formed the United States. Boulder County, the City of Boulder, and some Homeowner Associations stir similarly visceral passions when private dreams are thwarted by thoughtless application of burdensome and costly rules and regulations.
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Alcohol Rules v. Education and Peer Pressure

August 25, 2012

Alcohol is a social lubricant. It also kills indiscriminately. The way young people “learn” how to drink could not be more poorly designed. High schoolers learn from their college peers, who are old enough to acquire alcohol. Collegians develop drinking patterns at private parties, where ids are not checked and the alcohol is often more powerful and usually free. The patterns they establish in college carry forward into their adult years. The U.S. has a drinking problem because most people learn to drink without adult supervision in environments where there are no rules (or even good modeling behavior).
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Aurora Theater Slaughter by Holmes

July 28, 2012

6,000 rounds of ammunition. 2 Glock handguns. 1 pump-action shotgun. An AR-15 (M-16) with a 100-round drum capable of firing 50-60 rounds per minute. All acquired within the past two months. Is there no division at Homeland Security in a position to connect these dots?
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Guns on CU’s Campus

March 10, 2012

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I, with 5 other people, were held hostage for two very frightening hours in 1981 by a man holding a snub-nosed .38 and wearing a silk stocking over his head. From my perspective at the time, the odds of disarming the guy were not good (about ½-inch of the barrel extended beyond the palm of his hand). We made no foolish mistakes and all of us survived unharmed, but I hate guns, particularly hand guns.
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Safe Streets Begin Between Your Ears

February 11, 2012

“The last time I should speed is when I’m in a hurry.” “While waiting to make a left turn, it’s not what I see, but what I don’t see that could kill me (look for blind spots, not semi-trailer trucks).” “If I’m on a bicycle, I’m invisible, but if a driver sees me, he may try to kill me (eye contact does not equal awareness).” “If I ride a bike at night without a light, I’m an idiot.” At one time or another, but more frequently towards the end of my career as a prosecutor in Boulder’s municipal court, I often suggested to drivers and bicyclists that the above thoughts just might save their lives some day.
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Municipal Court Jury Trials

January 21, 2012

For the vast majority of Boulder’s citizens, the only encounters they are likely to have with the criminal justice system occur in Municipal Court. Justice should be served every day to everyone who appears, without exception. In the words of Alexander Hamilton, “The ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice . . . contributes more than any other circumstance to impressing upon the minds of the people affection, esteem, and reverence towards the government.” The Federalist Papers (No. 17) (1787), at 120.
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Travis Masse – Sexual Predator

July 28, 2011

I don’t know Travis Masse or any of his victims. My knowledge of the case is based on what I read in the paper – a source of information wholly inadequate to the task of peering into another person’s soul, so I won’t try. I hope all those involved find peace and healing eventually, but I fear the scars will never fade away completely. Mr. Masse’s consequences are self-inflicted. He must own them. The harm he caused his innocent victims earned a harsh punishment. Society has wisely determined that such conduct is reprehensible, and a jury of his peers determined that Mr. Masse did it. Case closed.
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