There is the maverick in me that gets stronger the older I get.   You may be the same way:  We have laws, ordinances or rules that were unwisely passed that are not enforced or hardly enforced, and you revel in the fact that police and inspectors really don’t see enforcement of them as a priority.

How many “well-meaning” laws are there out there, some passed in knee-jerk fashion or boilerplate laws from other places, and really don’t belong in a free society?  Fortunately, we have police who have brains and judgment and know their priorities and don’t bother to go after certain “crime.”  You might consider that to be selective enforcement but do you really want a police state? Do you really want to pay for more cops and sheriff’s deputies to ensure that every petty law gets enforced?  Do you want to build more jails and deal with more displaced families where adults have gone to jail for smoking pot or whatever.

In Tempe, I have been raging for years about the city’s overly restrictive sign ordinance that is so arbitrarily enforced.   I have done battle with city council members who laud their diligence in ordinances limiting  24-square feet, low box name signs on streetside for businesses.  Strip malls so common at corners of major intersections are jungles for finding exactly where businesses are located unless the businesses happen to be anchors.   Smaller shops, often far from the view of passing traffic, don’t have a chance.   And those centers have often only a limited number of  “directory” signs on the street corner listing shops in that center.   Other Valley cities are more receptive to the idea of center directories, even if they loom large on the landscape.

The City of Tempe used to strongly enforce it strict allowance of  stretch acrylic banners, which typically span across posts or trees that announce store openings, special discounts or store closings.  Days of display were strictly counted and fees could be hefty.  They cracked down on A-frames along the street and non-profit groups or churches that put out banners or A-frames.  You now see more banners around town and little or no crackdown.  That’s good enough for me.

Of course,  the economic downturn that has hit municipal budgets has curbed the number of inspectors and nuisance enforcers. Signs are more freely out there to help the consumer, shopper or driver in quest of stores.  The Tempe Chamber of Commerce has also been an influence in getting the city to temper its enforcement as small shops and businesses struggle to make a buck with low-cost  promotion.

I will always believe the city forever compromised its “high standards for smaller, tasteful, aesthetically pleasing signs” when it turned around and allowed Tempe Marketplace mall businesses to promote themselves along  the Red Mountain Freeway (202) with humongous lighted signs.  The rows of lighted billboard-like panels can be seen for miles.  The city’s  allowances of banners all around town in 1996 for the Super Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium and later the large signs permitted for IKEA and other stores along I-10 in south Tempe further convinced me that city leaders were willing to sacrifice their holy aesthetics standards when big dollars were at stake.   So, in my mind, all bets are off, and the little day-care center or dry cleaners should be able to promote themselves as well with banners or A-frames. Let us see what we are looking for.

The drop-off of inspectors also  is why we have had so many properties allowed to grow tall weeds this spring without being tagged and ordered to cut them down.  Now dry weeds are everywhere to sully the landscape for the rest of the year.

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