Submitted to The Gainesville Sun, Saturday, April 24, 1999
Municipal Magic: Turning Rights into Crimes Before Your Very Eyes
 Steven A. Reid, M. D.

The Gainesville City Commission is poised to strike a blow against the Citizens of Gainesville. They have made it crystal clear that they intend to blithely disregard the United States and Florida constitutions and to violate the privacy and property rights of our people. They have conspired to use the color of law to deprive the Citizens of Gainesville of a commonly enjoyed right. They have assumed authority to proceed in imposing their will upon us all, although they have no legitimate basis for this assumption.

The instant issue involves the plan to make parking on one’s private property a "non-criminal infraction". Regardless of the legal jargon, their plan is simple: to convert a basic right—the right to park your car in your yard – into either a privilege requiring the permission of bureaucrats, or a "non-criminal" crime requiring the payment of penalties.

This action constitutes a taking of a property right without compensation and is expressly prohibited by Amendment 5 of the Constitution for the United States. This action also violates the Florida Constitution’s provision against governmental intrusion into citizens’ private lives. It constitutes a conversion of your property to public use without your consent.

The Florida Constitution recognizes that all political power is inherent in the people. We, as the holders of the political power, have delegated some of this power to our representatives in order to facilitate the legitimate role of government, i.e. protecting our persons and property from force and fraud. The City Commissioners are supposed to act as political trustees on behalf of the Citizens of Gainesville (we Citizens are both the grantors and beneficiaries of the political trust). I do not have the power to tell my neighbor what color to paint his house, how many children he can have, or where on his property he can park his car. Hence, I cannot delegate such power to my representatives.

Nor can the Commission delegate these powers to itself. When the City Commissioners act beyond their delegated powers, they violate the political trust and their oaths of office. At that point they lose any claim to the cloak of sovereign immunity and stand individually exposed to subsequent legal actions. They literally become conspirators against the people. Be warned, Commissioners, conspiracy to violate anyone’s constitutionally protected rights is serious business – in fact, it is a crime.

In fairness, the City Commission, with the exception of Ed Jennings, just doesn’t understand that there is a difference between public and private. As our representatives, they are empowered to legislate over public property to their hearts’ content. Regulation of parking on the public ways is well within their authority. Stretching such regulation onto private property is not. Commissioners naively believe that everything within the geographic boundaries of the City of Gainesville falls under their legislative jurisdiction. It doesn’t. There is a vast difference between the corporate City of Gainesville, Inc. over which they have legislative authority, and the geographic City of Gainesville, wherein their legislative authority is limited to public property. The only exceptions to these limits involve the abatement of nuisances. The city has attempted, and failed miserably, to prove the absurd premise that parking a car on one’s lawn, in and of itself, constitutes a public nuisance. Without such proof, they have no legitimate power to manufacture ordinances that convert basic rights into privileges or crimes. Mr. Radson, the City Attorney, has been negligent in allowing the Commission to proceed with this legal absurdity—which will inevitably be shot down in the court system—but only after tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer’s money has been squandered on legal fees defending the indefensible.

Ask yourself, do we really want Gainesville to be "on the cutting edge" of the municipal violation of private property rights? Is this what we elected our Commissioners to do? How many more of your rights will they convert into privileges or crimes? Congratulations to Mr. Jennings, you are the only Commissioner who understands your legitimate role as a legislator and the distinction between public and private. I hope you can educate your colleagues.


Steven A. Reid, M.D. 

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Revised  April 28, 1999