from the sidewalks of honesdale

‘Out of touch to a previously unrecorded degree’

By Derek Williams
Posted 3/18/21

“Wait a minute. When was the last time I applied for a permit?” asked the citizen who took a photo, without obstructing a walkway, while out for a walk... never.

Walking around is just …

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from the sidewalks of honesdale

‘Out of touch to a previously unrecorded degree’

Posted

“Wait a minute. When was the last time I applied for a permit?” asked the citizen who took a photo, without obstructing a walkway, while out for a walk... never.

Walking around is just that: an everyday way to move about. Yet, it’s also a beautiful, mind-clearing way to engage with your neighborhood. Should local government insert itself into sacred, sidewalk headspace by nagging your brain about permits and fines related to media production? I submit an emphatic “no!”

Such is the most recent, entirely avoidable concern of my neighbors and I. Honesdale Borough Council is considering the adoption of a media production activity ordinance. Ostensibly about protecting the town from any negative spillover effects of large-scale film shoots, the regulatory language, as recently proposed, sweeps up everything into a permit-requiring clump.

We’re talking about needing permits for “all movies, television or video series, pilots, feature films and documentaries, commercials, music videos, photoshoots, infomercials and public service announcements and or any similar media type events” taking place in public spaces “regardless of whether or not the proposed activity is scheduled to obstruct or interrupt normal traffic flow.”

Don’t get me wrong—do you want to close a street to flip a car for an action flick? Please coordinate ahead of time because my neighbor might walk to work along that street. No exceptions were included in these proposed regulations, though. No acknowledgement of what people do on the daily was made. Sensible local interests were not recognized. A kid filming their dog in the park or someone filming a social travel vlog would have to contact the fire chief just like their visiting Hollywood counterparts would.

As a weekend restaurant patron taking a downtown selfie, as a small business owner recording a social media post, or as a regular citizen with some common-sense understanding of what’s appropriate in public, does this seem even remotely reasonable? Obviously not. I get fired up about problematic land use regulations that make living less easy all the time, but this is out of touch to a previously unrecorded degree.

So, how does this happen? In short, a lack of transparency, dialogue and accountability. If someone reaches out to their local government with a concern, they should be heard. If information is shared that concerns a given citizen, it should be discussed. This is the inflection point where further action should be taken to understand an issue.

Instead of asking “what happened?” and “should we do anything?” and “what could we do?” and “when can we next pull in more community voices to better understand everything?” in a public forum where people can hear the answers, Honesdale Borough Council started the process of drafting regulations without a logical foundation.

Untethered from the lived reality of what these regulations might mean, something blatantly heavy-handed and callously prohibitive gets to the point of public review when our representatives don’t do their job well. The people of Honesdale (or anywhere) should not be in this position. And when in this position, it should not be under the current conditions of playing proofreader for a piece of poor policy.

People should be able to trust their representatives at least enough to believe things they propose won’t throw them under the bus for simply living their lives while not bothering anyone. Similarly, representatives should pause before activating the local government machinery that can collect permit fees and impose fines.

These are the basics. It’s not much to ask. If these proposed regulations still exist for public review by the time of this publication and you’re so inclined, feel free to join the coalition of people paying attention and opposing unnecessary restrictions on our ability to create things in the very creatively fertile lands we share along the Delaware.

Derek Frey Williams, Citizen Planner and Transparency Advocate, Canaltown. Visit interweb portals at www.canaltown552.com for more local landscape stories.

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