There is something wonderfully all-American about a private citizen outraged by government hubris who ends up elected into high office. I recall the colorful career of former Senator Jake Garn of Utah. Garn was a retired Navy fighter pilot and a successful businessman when he got into a zoning spat with the Salt Lake City Planning Department. Next thing you know he was elected mayor, then elected to two terms in the U.S. Senate. Along the way, Garn was the first sitting member of Congress to fly in orbit (Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985). On the philanthropic front, he donated a kidney to his daughter which he describes as the single most important achievement of his life. I may not agree with Garn’s Republican politics, but I love his bravado and ethic of service.Now there is word that Santa Monica City Councilman Bobby Shriver, a Yale Law School graduate, may run for California Attorney General. Shriver, who is from the Kennedy clan and is the brother-in-law of Governor Schwarzenegger, has a long and distinguished career of philanthropic service, including work with U2’s Bono to help Africa. You may recall that about six years ago Shriver, like some other Santa Monica property owners, went to his mail box and out-of-the-blue was greeted with a letter from City Hall threatening that if he did not cut his hedges, he would be fined $25,000 a day until his offending flora came into compliance.Whoa! Shortly thereafter Shriver ran for City Council, although he was quick to assert that he had a long agenda of worthwhile goals, not just humanizing our city’s abusive “hedge laws.” Shriver won with one of the largest vote totals in city history, and has since been reelected by a similar landslide margin. For hedge owners, it meant leafy reprieve. More importantly, Shriver has distinguished himself on a number of fronts, including some real leadership in the care of our community’s army of homeless.Interesting to think that if our hedge laws had been less Draconian, Shriver may not have run for City Council, nor would he be contemplating a job change north on I-5 as California’s top cop, which for that matter could become a stepping stone to the Governor’s mansion where, one assumes, he could grow the hedges as high as he wants. This begs the question: Where in our fair burg-by-the-bay is the next bureaucratic smack-down so egregious it inspires yet another private-citizen-turned-politician “…mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore?” I have a nominee. Lately the city has been posting signs at key intersections: “Do Not Block Intersection Fines to $500.” $500 fine? Whoa. Will public amputation of the accelerator foot be next? This is rush hour stuff, working folks — moms and dads — trying to get home in time for dinner with the young ones. Sure, it would be great if no one ever got caught standing in the intersection on red, but we are talking public convenience, not public safety. The fine should be like a parking ticket, around $50, not some Spanish Inquisition half-$K possibly yanked from the kid’s future college fund during the downward spiral of a failing economy.
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