I’ve been wanting to find a topic I can go on a rant about that would at least allow me to say something positive about our new President Donald Trump, who after his first 100 days in office hasn’t been getting all that great of press.
I might not agree with everything that comes out of the man’s mouth, but here’s one particular item I can agree with him on: burdensome regulations.
Here’s a good example: during conversations with city manager Bill Fann over the issue of water loss and how that impacts the city’s bottom line, we got to talking about wastewater as well.
When the city first designed their sewer systems — and to an extent all cities across the country and world have this problem if they are of a certain age_ all water ended back up into one pipe feeding back into a return to the water source, or these days first into a treatment plant and then into the water source.
So whether you’re flushing your toilet, rinsing the dishes or hosing off the car in the driveway, the city wanted all that water to eventually collect at one point. Storm water drains included.
Fann said that these days, the city is moving away from storm water intermingling with the sewer system since the clean water from those systems don’t need treatment like raw sewage coming from a home or business does.
However, because most of the sewer system conforms to previous standards, whenever it rains the city collects that water for treatment as well. It doesn’t do any real harm since it dilutes the sewage heading into the water treatment plant.
But it does indicate there are also major leak and infiltration of the sewer lines as well, because not all the water getting into the sewer system via rainfall is getting there through storm drains.
Here’s the kicker though, and where President Trump’s call for cutting regulations makes a small amount of sense to me.
Whenever the city gets a lot of rain - say five inches in a day or so - and happens to exceed an arbitrary limit on their permit for processing water, they get a stern letter from the Environmental Protection Division stating that they have exceeded the limit, and oh by the way just don’t do it again.
It really grinds my gears to hear that, especially since that’s all that really happens. No fines. No inspectors showing up to see if there’s a problem or just to check the facility over to ensure they are complying with all regulations.
Just a letter.
Doesn’t that just sound like a big waste of time?
First, the city has to process the water one way or another. It has to go out as clean or cleaner than when they pumped it out of Big Spring in the plant downtown for local residents to use. More than a million gallons of water per day, according to Fann.
So the city spends the money and man hours to make sure that even during the middle of a major rain event that water is going back into the creek as clean as it can be, they get told not to do it again even though it’s bound to happen because of something the city can’t control at the moment.
Especially since it’s not like the state is going to cough up additional dollars to make the full upgrades you’d need to stop the problem on sewer and storm water systems across the state.
So why bother sending the letter at all?
Because when you are in a bureaucratic system like the United States, every job must be considered important, including whoever is in charge of sending out that letter. If a department is created, it needs to grow and expand or be seen as the next item on the chopping block when legislatures look to trim items from the budget in one area to fund another who happens to be more prominent at the moment.
If Trump’s call to end burdensome regulations kills issues like that, then I’m all for it and happy to sing his praises while he does so. Hallelujah! Government saving money for a change!
Yet I think time will tell on that issue. Regulation can be good when it stops companies from dumping coal ash into our rivers and streams, for instance. That’s good.
But what I fear will happen is that someone right now is sitting in a nondescript office somewhere in Washington, D.C., tasked with the job of deciding what regulations are a problem, and what aren’t.
That study, much like the regulations, costs hours of manpower and forests of paper to produce, and as the years go by and thousands of pages are printed off and spread around, it only seems to be adding to the growing problem. More studies call for more government interference.
And don’t think it can get any worse. Georgia’s Public Policy Foundation wrote about the issue of regulations when they brought up the differences in required training hours for professions.
They pointed out that because of the way cosmetology laws are set up, someone who wanted to braid hair for a living and setup a business to do so would have to spend 1,500 hours in training just to get a license, compared to the much less time spent for security guards and firefighters to be considered trained.
According to the Public Policy Foundation’s commentary piece on the issue, the decision in the case of Khamit Kinks Inc v. Georgia State Board of Cosmetology, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane ruled that the regulations were burdensome and irrational.
What did the state do according to this piece? Changed the law to explicitly stipulate the requirement.
There are plenty more examples of this throughout local, state and federal government.
Here’s the thing that everyone forgets: we might not ever come into contact with these regulations as taxpayers. But we foot the bill for having to process meaningless letters, or by guaranteeing student loans for a program that a person doesn’t need to braid hair.
Billions are spent annually on regulatory efforts that essentially provide no real results. Millions more on reports that only matter because the arbitrary laws we write require them.
I’m all for using data in a correct way.
I’m all for putting together plans, and for ensuring that businesses are acting in a responsible manner by using regulations that matter and have teeth.
What I can’t stomach, and what we should all be angry about is the amount of stupidity we go through in this world in order to do something as simple as treat water or braid hair.
Solutions to these problems require political activism and willingness to upset already teetering apple carts on the part of the people, who ultimately choose the leadership in elections.
My advice for doing something about regulation is finding candidates willing to change the system from within to better conditions and cut costs. Whether that will be enough is debatable, and only time will tell if it works.
One additional thing I’m going to agree with President Trump on as well with some reluctance is the president’s executive order allowing religious institutions to take political stands without consequence to their non-profit status.
This is a move that essentially gives blessing to a system already in place giving voice to religious organizations in politics, no longer penalizing groups and their non-profit status supporting candidates directly via money and through speech in sermons.
“No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors,” Trump said to applause during a Rose Garden ceremony last week. “You are now in a position where you can say what you want to say. ... We are giving the churches their voices back.”
I’m not going to pretend to defend this from a religious stand point. I believe all Americans — from the small sanctuaries in Aragon to the mega churches in Atlanta have the right to speak their minds — and should be able to be involved in the political process. It’s a simple matter of fairness to me.
Part of the reason why Americans are so divided is because many of us feel - myself included, even with the power of the printing press at my disposal - that we aren’t being heard by those people we keep sending to office.
If our votes aren’t enough to speak for us, maybe the influence of money influencing the political landscape via organizations - whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Zoroastrian - should have the right to use their wallets whether good or bad.
Especially after the decision made many years ago involving Citizen’s United, which opened the door for corporations to get involved in politics.
For underlying the religious principles of any organization which provides spiritual comfort to the community is a non-profit corporation.
Regulations have in the past prevented using their influence in the political sphere overtly, and it’s good that it’s gone.
I will be looking to the future and how a variety of Trump issues, from proposed tax reform to the health care repeal law up before the House of Representatives at the time of this writing. Maybe some of his ideas and reforms will stick and have some positive outcomes.
But with all the bickering between the two parties, the White House and the houses of Congress, I’m not immediately hopeful action will be swift enough to be effective.