The man-made conflict between trees and federal disability law is a fine example of why most government should be done locally (to the extent it has to be done at all):
Town officials say they are facing a painful dilemma: They can’t make the sidewalks accessible to the handicapped and save the trees.
]Nearly 80 years after the Works Progress Administration installed the curbing and sidewalks during the Great Depression, the thick trunks and roots of the trees planted along the road are blocking and buckling the pedestrian way.
The situation came to a head recently when the town began reconstructing King Street, a quiet road one block east of Main Street and just south of the downtown. Once the town undertook substantial repairs to the road, it triggered federal requirements that the sidewalks comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Public Works Director John Massed.
For a before-and-after picture, click the link above and watch the related video. The camera shot at the 20-second marker shows the street with one side de-treed and the other not.
As communities, we do have a responsibility to accommodate those with the misfortune of being disabled, but dictating minute policies from Washington, D.C., is lunacy bordering on tyranny. If the responsibility were local, neighbors could figure out solutions that work best for everybody involved, answering questions like, “What are the odds that a disabled person is going to go down this street so often that both sides have to be cleared of trees?”
We’ve reached the point of the absurd. When the Tiverton Yacht Club reopened this year (after a fire and years of legal battles), members could not use the second floor. Hefty barriers blocked the stairs, not because the upstairs was unfinished or otherwise unsafe, but because there had been a delay in installing the elevator required for people with disabilities. A private club, using the property mainly for a children’s camp, a swimming pool, and the occasional social gathering, could not let members upstairs because some hypothetical disabled person wouldn’t be able to get up there for a couple of months.
Now apply this observation to the thousands and thousands of pages of laws and regulations passed at the national level that affect our lives in ways we can’t so obviously see.