Government chooses being either cooperative with the citizenry, or confrontational. Examples of helping citizens cooperate with the law are many. The current alliance between the IRS and Turbo Tax enables free computer tax preparation for filers with simple returns, including millions of low income families. What a great idea! On Illinois toll roads, if you miss a toll station you can go online later the same day and pay the toll without penalty. The newest generation of parking meters being installed by L.A. enables you to remotely add time to your meter with your cell phone and credit card, in case you get waylaid. This the way it should be — the “carrot” whenever possible.Confrontational, or what I call the “gotcha gov,” seeks every opportunity to catch you and me violating the law. Meet the “stick.” Sometimes it reaches the absurd, such as several years ago when our fair burg-by-the-bay sent some property owners letters informing them that if they didn’t trim their hedges, they would be fined $25,000 a day. (That’s one hell of a stick!)On the eve of Earth Day 2009, we now learn the extraordinary tale of Paul Pearson, electric car builder, who was the subject of a “sting” operation by the SMPD seeking to catch Pearson converting gas guzzlers to planet-friendly electric drive trains without the necessary regulatory authorizations. To be sure, Mr. Pearson should be in compliance with all laws. But Santa Monica could have been a partner in that process. Why not a letter expressing the city’s concern of possible non-compliance, and follow-up dialog? Did we really need one of our city’s finest to go undercover — a pretend eco-freak — to nail Mr. Pearson?The future? Pearson’s daily driver is an “Electric Sprint Car” which he notes is street legal, a fantastic machine with zero carbon footprint. Our City Council should pass an Earth Day Resolution recognizing Mr. Pearson’s invention. Next, our city’s talented legal team should help Mr. Pearson jump though all the DMV and other regulatory hoops necessary to grow his business. If they can find him in violation of the law, they can surely advise him how to be in compliance with the law. (Face it, who among us couldn’t use a little help in dealing with the DMV from time to time?) Perhaps the city has a spare bay or two at the Michigan Street maintenance yard where Mr. Pearson can build experimental zero emission vehicles. Finally, like the IRS-Turbo Tax alliance, perhaps Santa Monica could joint venture with Mr. Pearson on his noble quest to eschew “dinosaur wine” in favor of electrified transportation. Maybe the city could bag some economic stimulus funds from the Feds for the venture? If successful, the city’s revenue from the joint project could be poured into the public schools. And if Pearson and Santa Monica won the Nobel Prize for environmental efforts (following the footprints of Al Gore), the city could donate its share of the prize money to the public schools as well.I don’t know who Mr. Pearson’s accusers in City Hall answer to but I know that the City Council answers to the voters. We the People need to do everything in our power to demand a cooperative government — one that works for us instead of against us. It is time to put the “saint” back in Santa Monica and get on with the business of saving Mother Earth.
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