>>Valley Patriot>>

Thinking Outside the Box
Dr. Chuck Ormsby

Government Run Amok
Tasting its Own Medicine

Safe at last! Thank God almighty, we’re safe at last! The North Andover Town Meeting has finally passed a bylaw that removes the scourge of falling newspaper racks from our community.

The new bylaw, now Chapter 136 of the General Bylaws of North Andover, is spelled out in great detail in 13 subchapters.

Don’t even consider putting up a newsrack in the Peoples Republic of North Andover without genuflecting to the Director of Public Works (or his exalted designee) and obtaining a “Certificate of Compliance”. Of course, to obtain said “Certificate of Compliance” you need to read the new bylaw. If you can get through it without falling asleep, you must have an IQ lower than the runaway bride.

In keeping with the supreme gravity of this issue, the new bylaw is 3247 words long! And you thought our Declaration of Independence was long … it runs to all of 1327 words. Yes, that’s right. Our new bylaw to regulate newsracks is almost 2 times the length of our nation’s Declaration of Independence.


It might not surprise you if I told you this bylaw was modeled on a similar bylaw in effect in The Peoples Republic of Cam-bridge. You can guess where they got it.

After you read this silly bylaw and fill out the appropriate paperwork, the bylaw specifies that, “The Director or his/her designee shall review and approve for compliance with Section 136-2, entitled Certificate of Compliance, Section 136-4, entitled Standards, and Section 136-7, entitled Installation, Maintenance and Delivery Time.”

If you are a lucky applicant and are approved, you get to pay the Town a fee of $200 annually for your newsrack! That’s right … $200 every single year … even if the newsrack is solidly bolted into the same location and nothing has changed! Do you smell “Revenue Opportunity”?

Oh, and don’t forget to submit “a certificate of insurance naming the Town of North Andover as an additional insured in an amount sufficient to indemnify the Town and hold it harmless from any and all claims or judgments for personal and bodily injury, including death, or property damage and from costs and expenses to which the Town may be subjected or which it may suffer or incur by reason of the design, placement, installation, operation or maintenance of any of the applicant’s newsracks.”

Man, that should just about cover it! Do you smell a lawyer in the woodpile?

Why was this bylaw proposed? Apparently a small child with inadequate supervision pulled a newsrack over onto herself and was injured … a freak accident

What if a child has an eye poked by a tree branch? Do we pass an ordinance requiring a “Certificate of Compliance” for trees? How about getting a “Certificate of Compliance” every time you park your car in North Andover? Those exhaust pipes sure are hot. We wouldn’t want a toddler to get burned! Maybe we should require parents to have a “Certificate of Compliance” for their kids. How about a “Certificate of Competency” for parenting?

But just try to get this stupid bylaw taken off the books! Talk about a tar baby!

Well the Town just got a taste of its own medicine. And boy the Town deserves it!

Late at night, after all the boring zoning Ordinances were dealt with and most sensible people had gone home, the Town proposed Warrant Article 45, a bylaw change that would exempt the Town of North Andover from its own Wireless Service Facilities Bylaw.

The exemption is big enough to drive the First Armored Division through. It exempts “Municipal telecommunications Facilities, including but not limited to …” and then lists a slew of examples. I guess that means it could put up a Pulsar X-Ray Communications Blaster on the High School and never have to fill out even one itsee-bitsee little form.

To understand this, you need to under-stand that the Wireless Service Facilities Bylaw (think cell phone towers) is a very cumbersome, bureaucratic, swamp-of-a-bylaw intended to make life impossible for private telecommunications companies. A bylaw that makes private companies genuflect, beg, fill out tons of paperwork, perform impact studies, kiss-our- a** and, if they are lucky, pay us some big bucks. Another one of those “Mother May I” regulations (see this column in the September 2004 edition of The Valley Patriot).

But the Wireless Service Facilities Bylaw has one unfortunate shortcoming: It also applies to the government.


Well, heaven forbid! We can’t have the government required to go through all this crapolla. But I thought the bylaw was passed to protect the health and safety of the public …so why should the government now be exempt?

I voted against the newsrack bylaw. We don’t need 3247 more words regulating every nuance of our lives. Nor do we need to set a precedent that every unfortunate incident requires another layer of legal/regulatory mumbo-jumbo and the lawyers that go with it.

I also voted against exempting the town from the Wireless Facilities Bylaw. I have no concern about the health effects of communication antennas. I just think the Town needs a good taste of its own medicine.

Bon appetite!

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