David vs Goliath

Today’s post comes from Crystalbay

I’ve been MIA for a few weeks because I’m thoroughly embroiled in a fight with city hall. In this city, people aren’t allowed to have a boat at their dock unless they themselves own it. This means that my own kids couldn’t even dock here. I have no boat, and have rented it out every summer for much needed income. A local marina owner found out and filed a complaint against me. I was notified that I had to remove the friend’s boat in one week or face trial. I didn’t comply, then received a summons for a court hearing. Bottom line: I’m facing up to a $1000 fine or 90 days in jail for having one boat at my otherwise empty dock. This money is 1/4 of my annual income, so I decided to fight back.

In a group email to the mayor and city council, I begged for help in resolving this. I explained my situation. I also wrote that, short of help from them, I might have to go public. Not one responded. I’m sure that they thought I was just blowing smoke.

I made one phone call to the StarTribune. They came out the very next day to interview me. A week later, the story was featured on the front page of the Minnesota Section.

What’s happened since this is nothing short of phenomenal. 360 comments followed the article, 95% positive. Someone posted the story on a Lake Minnetonka Fan Club FB page. 250 more comments followed, 98% from people outraged by Orono’s actions. A high end attorney offered pro bono representation. Two more local newspapers wanted in on the action and two more articles brought even more support. I’ve been told that the story spread across the state and that even our governor is following it. I’ve had offers to pay any legal costs or fines. Hundreds have expressed interest in attending my public hearing on Oct. 25th. All three reporters from the three articles published want to be present for possible follow-up articles.

What began as just me and the city locking horns over my dock has taken on a life of its own, with hundreds of people angry about everything from how our tax dollars are being spent to government overreach to how seniors are treated. It seems that disdain for city councils around the lake in general was tapped into by one old lady’s predicament. It’s reminding me of the movie Network when Peter Finch got people to open up their windows and yell, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore!!!!!”

In short, my situation going public has touched a palpable and collective nerve in the community across the lake. Even if, as many are predicting, my case gets dismissed, something has clearly been awakened. All I wanted was and is to be able to have one boat at my dock.

What was your David vs Goliath moment? Have you ever had to fight City Hall?

 

 

48 thoughts on “David vs Goliath”

  1. Crystalbay, who is my sister, already knows how complicated this issue is for me. My personal ethics oblige me to grant that central authority often has to curb individual freedom when the exercise of freedom conflicts with the common good. But as soon as I say that i think of all the ways central authority can be pigheaded, unfair and misinformed.

    I think that I have never battled to defend personal freedom against central authority . . . with one possible exception. There was a time–a long time of eleven years–when my government tried to force me to go to war when I didn’t choose to go. My government maintained that the common good obliged me to fight, risk death or disfigurement and perhaps even kill people I didn’t see as enemies. I was adamantly convinced that was wrong and said so in every way I could. And in the end, I didn’t go to war with anyone. David, in my case, didn’t slay Goliath. But David got enough student deferments to keep out of war.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I suppose one David vs Goliath moment for me was my work with an ad hoc group of students to change the dorm visitation policy at my undergraduate college. Being a Lutheran institution, dorms were not coed, and you could only visit members of the opposite sex in their rooms every other Sunday afternoon. I remember a meeting with the college president in which he pounded on his desk and shouted at us that the policy would not change because he didn’t want the “horror stories” happening at his institution that he heard were happening at St Olaf. It sure made us curious about St Olaf!

    The policy didn’t change until years later, and now there are coed dorms.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s easy to forget, especially when laws don’t affect us directly, that central authority is not the last step in the lawmaking process. The people are, and push back against ill-conceived and unjust laws is an essential part of governance.
    Those making up these rules are not necessarily representative of the people they govern and their perspectives may be distorted. It’s hard to imagine what this particular law intended, but given that this is Orono, it smacks of an impulse toward exclusivity and exclusion. It appears that many fellow citizens agree, but it’s nevertheless brave to be willing to be the one to lead the protest. I assume that the mayor and city council are facing an election soon? It will be interesting to see if this issue has the potential to become representative of a more general dissatisfaction with the council.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. As an elected township official I can see both sides of this. So often we have to deal with things that shouldn’t be a big deal, but turn into them because the rules have to be made to deal with all possible abuses, but in the particular situation it’s just one person trying to make a living.
    Often some sort of compromise can be made while not setting a precedent for the Township.
    I hope things can be worked out for you too CB!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Years ago the school board here made a decision to change the name of the high school mascot from “The Midgets ” to something less offensive. There was a general uproar, with adults in tears over the change, telling how proud they were to be Midgets. All the school board members who supported the change were voted out of office. We are still Midgets.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    There seems to be a David and Goliath mentality in the world at this time, and when Goliath is threatened, he roars mightily. There are a few things that cause me to feel like David, the last being the professional certification I finally got last summer. That seemed like a giant of a project. And it was.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You go, girl! Way to hang tough, Crystalbay. Your case, in a nutshell, is why I’m a Lifetime member of the Libertarian Party–lack of accountability by government officials. A nebulous group of people, the voters, give certain individuals power to make and enforce laws, yet those with money, connections, and other forms of influence “persuade” the officials to pass laws which may seem harmless at the time–such as non-owned boats only allowed to dock at public or private marinas, not personal docks. Many of those laws may have been passed with good intentions or to address a real problem at the time, but often they outlive their usefulness or address a problem that is not really a problem. I’m sure you’ve all heard or read stories about arcane, silly laws passed decades or centuries ago about things like making it against the law to fart in public (

    But I’ll be that law was passed after marina owners (who benefit by boats being more or less forced to use their facilities) got a law passed that says private homeowners can’t make a few bucks by renting out their dock space to others. Where is the harm in Crystalbay supplementing her income in a creative way?

    Seems to me it’s free-market competition. If a marina owner is losing business to her (one boat??) then he should accept that OR– lower his price or offer more perks and/or service to attract that dock renter away from Crystalbay’s dock.

    The majority of laws being passed these days seem to be passed for the purpose of controlling citizens’ behavior. Libertarians believe that all laws should be passed for the purpose of protecting each individual’s freedom to peacefully live their life as they see fit as long as they don’t infringe upon the rights of anyone else.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am a member of a regulatory board, and our main task is to protect the public from incompetent and unethical health care providers. We are very careful to do that without restricting trade. Sometimes it is a hard balance to find, but we do our best.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. You’re spot on, Chris. In my sleuthing, I’ve discovered that the wealthy marina owner pushed this law through and is best friends with the mayor as well. His scheme was to scare people into not having private dock arrangements because, even though his three marinas have long waiting lists, desperate boat owners will pay anything to rent a slip.

      He doesn’t need my 3K; he wants to jack up his prices (which already start at 7K for the season). I’ve concluded that the city wanted to make an example out of someone as to what would happen if caught breaking this arcaine ordinance. I drew the lucky number, although the bad press my story’s generated is now backfiring on them big time.

      I also learned that Orono has the 8th highest prices for real estate of any city in the country. The median home price here is 1 million dollars. It appears that the city council seeks to make Orono into a gated community for multi millionaires and just doesn’t want squatters like me around. Some are telling me that they want to pressure me into selling so that a new mansion will replace the cottage, resulting in a higher tax base for the city.

      What has hundreds of constituents outraged, however, is that they now know that some of their tax dollars are being used to prosecute a senior citizen with an income so low that losing this rental money could break me. I have a dwindling reverse mortgage just to pay the 12K/year property tax or I’d have been long gone.

      As I wrote in the story, I never meant for this controvery to blow up as it has, but if all of this publicity is what it’s taking to challenge what the city’s doing with our tax dollars, they deserve the exposure they’re getting.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. i’ve always been in favor of taxes being grandfathered in. what you buy it at is where it stays until you’ve sold it or died
        it’s not rightva person should lose the property because the government jacks up the taxes

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  8. This issue caused me to reflect on my friend Larry, a man who owns and ranches a huge chunk of land in northern Montana. Larry knows that government has ideas about what he can do on that land. But ultimately he does whatever he thinks he should do.

    He and I tease each other about wolves. There are state and federal laws about wolves, laws that are generally protective. If a wolf showed up on Larry’s land he would put out poisoned meat, and there would be no public David and Goliath battle. He’d quietly bury the wolf and go on living as he thinks he should. It isn’t that Larry lacks ethics. But his ethics are deeply rooted in his sense of responsibility to his family, to his clan. He sees himself as the leader of his personal clan. A wolf would represent a threat to that, so he would not hesitate to eliminate the threat.

    Larry chooses to find me, his weird city friend, amusing because I feel allegiance to societal restrictions that he chooses to ignore. I’m delighted he finds me amusing and not offensive.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To both you and Chris–
      Often we know of people violating a rule but unless its life threatening or dangerous to community we’ll let it slide. Is that wrong?
      And then if someone complains we’ll have to follow up on it. And that’s when the minor things sometimes turn into big things.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Excellent point, Ben. We had a rather expensive set of stairs built at our vacation property along Lake Superior. The stairs made it safe and easy for people to go down to the lake or come up from it. We put the stairs there to help fishermen who used to go through our property to get at a prime ice fishing location. One day my erstwife saw a fisherman scale a shaky ladder up from the lake, climbing with a pack that held his fishing gear and a 70-pound black Labrador. So we had the stairs built. Then we found out they were in conflict with shoreline zoning. The city boy in me wanted to have a discussion with local zoning commissioners, but I realized that would put them in difficulty. So we lived with an illegal stairwell, hoping nobody would object. The stairs are still there, 20 years later, but one protest would cause them to be taken down.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s a long history in this country of laws being selectively enforced, often to the benefit of the majority population and the detriment of the minority. If ignoring a rule is so inconsequential you can arbitrarily enforce it or not, doesn’t that suggest the rule is overreaching and unnecessary? Allowing a rule to go generally unenforced unless there is a complaint opens the door to its being used to vindictively harass someone.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You are surely right, and yet I don’t think there is a country anywhere on earth where all laws are enforced consistently. Which means I don’t think arbitrary enforcement does prove the rule is bad. It seems to me that few rules are written so intelligently that perfectly consistent enforcement of them is possible. Instead, people write rules, then make little compromises in enforcement to keep the whole thing from flying apart. On the whole, I think rules work better when enforcement has a little room for discretion. “Zero tolerance” rules might seem appealing but raise all kinds of problems.

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      3. In my case, Orono broke it’s own unwritten rule that only neighbors can file a complaint, not a marina half a mile away.

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    2. He might bury you with the wolves! My son’s brother in law and sister in law both work for NOAA. The sister in law used to work in ND helping with cloud seeding. They seed clouds out here to prevent hail storms. Ranchers are opposed to it, as they say it causes drought. Sister in law said the cloud seeding planes never flew over one of our far southwest counties because they sometimes got shot at by angry ranchers. That is plain wrong, but i guess they felt helpless and angry.

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      1. When government tells landowners they can’t kill wolves on their own lands, people hate government. And since they can’t shoot USFWS agents they sometimes kill a wolf and display its corpse as a way of expressing their defiance.

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    3. i find that mentality of putting out poison meat for wolves to be as offensive as if it were for any other being be it black gay bald eagle or republican gun owner

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  9. Wow, way to go CB! I’m always surprised by the stupid stuff that goes viral on Facebook or YouTube, so it’s good to see people getting up in arms about personal freedoms, choice and backwards city laws and ordinances.

    And people do love a good story about a little old lady fighting against The Machine. Power to you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One of the newspaper articles tossed in that I’m in remission from a cancer which resulted in only weighing 100 pounds. Between age, income, and health, the story is pretty compelling I guess.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, in all fairness, you must have provided that information at some point. But you’re right, the more “disadvantaged” you are, the more compelling the story.

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  10. Congrats on the response you’ve gotten, CB! Keep us in the loop after the hearing.

    In high school we had a new principal who enforced a very conservative dress code at a time (mid-sixties) when many schools were starting to allow things like (gasp!) girls wearing pants in stead of skirts. I remember a lot of us were “up in arms”, made signs, but I don’t remember actual rallies or protests. What did we do with the signs? We ultimately got our wish, though, and by my senior year we could wear slacks to class. My younger sister’s era had to fight for jeans…

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  11. The City of St. Paul recently changed its policy on garbage collection. Under the old policy individual homeowners could contract with whomever they wanted to haul away their trash. This policy resulted in multiple garbage haulers servicing any given neighborhood, and avoidable wear and tear on alleys and streets. Disposal of large items such as furniture, mattresses, appliances etc. were not included, and disposing of them came at an additional cost. This resulted in such items often being illegally dumped in alleys and even boulevards. The new policy would streamline all of this, with the city negotiating a contract with a consortium of trash haulers and mapping out areas to be serviced by individual haulers. In theory we would all save money and be happy campers.

    Unfortunately that’s not how it’s working out. As it turns out, there are lots of people who are serious about reducing the amount of trash they produce. Some of these people recycle and compost virtually everything, and in the past they were not required to contract with a trash hauler. Others, like us, have shared a garbage bin with our next door neighbors for years. To complicate matters, the new policy requires all duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes to have individual trash cans for each unit. As it turns out, lots of duplex owners don’t rent out their second unit, but they are still required to have (and pay for) an additional garbage bin. And whereas a house with multiple families could opt to share a large dumpster, they are now required to have individual garbage bins.

    Needless to say, a lot of people are pretty unhappy about this new policy. Over 6,000 signatures have been collected in protest, but only time will tell what compromises can be reached. Meanwhile, we now have reduced service at a higher price than we paid previously, but hey, should I decide to get a new mattress, I can get the old one hauled away for free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t in a sharing situation before, so the new system is actually cheaper for me. And it sure is nice not having so many trucks lumbering through the neighborhood.

      The new system was initially opposed by the various trash haulers, but the rules about multiple bins brought more paying customers into the system, and that mollified them.

      I’d like to see an option added for sharing, especially if it’s a duplex. But they have to be careful not to eliminate too much revenue that way. If they do, either the haulers won’t have as much revenue and they’ll be unhappy, or the city will have to raise the rates across the board to compensate, and then a different group of residents will be unhappy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our sharing with our next door neighbors didn’t save us any money, we paid for the whole thing. Our neighbors have been struggling financially, and it was some small way we could help. Now, not only do we have a much smaller garbage bin (because we can’t share), but we’ve also opted for service only every other week, and our cost is still higher than it used to be because we have to have an additional can. This is insane. The City dropped the ball on this one and allowed the big trash haulers to pretty much dictate the terms of the contract. If I’m required to have two trash cans, and I opt for service every other week, can I at least have them emptied on alternate weeks? No, that can’t be done. Don’t tell me that every family in this neighborhood has opted for every other week service. You know damn well that they’ll be driving through every week, but no, our two trash bins can not be serviced separately. I’m madder than a wet hen. And don’t even mention Kavanaugh.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ve just gone through hell trying to log in. WP had me going in circles trying to set a new password. Then, when I returned to this page, I was supposed to log in. I’d written a post, but suddenly it was asking me to log in again. Round and round. Finally, I spotted the option of logging in through clicking on the FB icon. That seems to work, but I’ve probably lost my avatar forever. Going forward, the question mark will have to be my avatar 😦

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    3. Unbelievable!! As in my case, the city came up with a solution searching for a problem. Orono, by the way, is the only city on this whole large lake to have such a law. Some rules are so convoluted and pointless that they’re made to be broken, I think. It’s kinda like taxes; once a new one is added, it’s never taken back, so the pile just keeps getting higher. One tax or ordinance on top of prior ones. This whole anxiety-provoking situation has taught me well what “gov’t overreach” is all about.

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  12. My regulatory board has to adhere very strictly to rules and regs set by our legislature. We can’t just decide to do things the way we want or change rules suddenly. The public is invited to give comment to the legislature regarding how we function. it is all quite transparent, and legislators seem to care very much what the public think about us.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Here’s an example of why I have so much ambiguity about rules. There are a ton of rules about home construction, many of them aimed at preventing home fires. Those rules often force people to pay for more expensive products and materials than they would have chosen if safety concerns weren’t so high. Some critics claim codes on building and repairing homes are specifically promoting the employment of licensed tradesmen. And yet homes are now remarkably safer than they used to be, with one consequence being that fire departments rarely fight fires now but spend more time helping at medical emergencies. If you look at past practices, home fires were lethal and common.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having standards has unintended side effects. In most areas this country if you have a house or apartment, it has to meet a lot of building codes, which are expensive, and the cost of the housing reflects that. Many people can’t afford housing that meets the standard, so they go on public assistance or become homeless. In the past, poor people would live in shacks, but they would have some sort of roof. Now they sleep under bridges. Or become dependent on public programs.

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  14. You have sometimes felt your posts didn’t get the attention they deserved, CrystalBay. I hope you feel differently about this one. This is an issue that is complicated and bothersome. People have strong feelings about issues like this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my opinion, one of the reasons some posts don’t “get the attention they deserve” is that we so carefully stay away from controversial subjects. That may also be a contributing factor to the longevity of the trail, but it is, I think, a two edged sword.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. CB, I admire your tenacity. Stick to your guns. I’d feel differently about this if you had, say, five different boats docked at your dock, and were creating a nuisance for your neighbors, but that’s not the case. This seems like plain old harassment.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I must commend CB for her whiz edting. The first draft she sent was much longer and filled with lots of details, but she edited it to the pithy form you read today.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love you cross the street with you guys in Edina and used to have a year of the garage sale song salesman samples and making a couple thousand bucks on the weekend

    I love the cross the street with you guys in Edina and used to have a year of the garage sale stone salesman samples and making a couple thousand bucks on the weekend The neighbors across the street got angry that the cars parking in stopping for my popular garage sale made it difficult for them to make a left turn to get out onto the road actually filed
    complaints and the police came by and shut me down for some law which stated if you can shell property from a bryan that residence that should be sold in a retail store
    I had to close it down on Thursday afternoon and the following year I pounded up no parking signs on one side of the street and when people came by and told me those were illegal I told him that was OK but I wouldn’t sell any product until they move the damn car

    is it ended up being a horrible situation where I had to move out of the house because eventually the same police came by and issued me a ticket saying that I could no longer run an office out of my house according to Edina law

    Rudy Luther and Carl Pohlad and other high dollar influential Edina residence across the street old City Hall and I guess that’s just the way it is but it does really make you angry

    Liked by 1 person

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