Saturday, December 21, 2013

Petty Tyrants

While it's generally true that the closer the government making laws over us is, the easier it is to intervene and change them, the fact remains that government in general attracts those who want to rule over other people, and they have a natural tendency to expand their rule over our lives.  To do so, they have a natural tendency to expand control over every aspect of our lives.  To borrow the "Philosoraptor" meme:
Today's example comes from little Kenmore, New York, between Buffalo and North Tonawanda.  A story on amateur radio site shows that city zoning has decided that hams should spend $1000 to file a permit for a radio antenna (not even a tower) on their property. That is for a permit, which may be denied and doesn't include any other fees.
The board passed a separate law Tuesday regulating the placement of amateur, or ham, radio antennas. The law includes a $1,000 application fee for a special-use permit.
In itself, that seems stupid to me.  Either it confuses towers with antennas or it's an attempt to make sure no hams have useful antennas in Kenmore.  A very useful amateur HF antenna can be made with wire thin enough to be invisible from more than a few feet away while cellphone towers are usually a hundred feet or more tall and quite visible from a mile or more.  How many teens, or young families, or retirees can afford $1000 just to apply to put up an antenna?  Plus, it ignores that in most of the country, hams routinely provide emergency communications support that the municipalities can't even afford to provide.  But stupidity is not illegal and if they want to chase amateurs out of the community, that's their privilege.

But my point isn't the stupidity of the law or outrageous amount of the fee.  My point is the city's response when an amateur told them that the FCC had preempted local law, declared they were in charge of such regulations and said that cities needed to "reasonably" accommodate amateur radio.  
"Please note that the Village, prior to passing this law, had no regulations pertaining to HAM operators, and such antenna structures were prohibited by local law. This local law represents the Village’s efforts to expand the rights of HAM radio operators."
Here we see the classic petty-tyrant, control-freak bureaucrat view:  since there were no laws pertaining to ham radio antennas, they were therefore illegal.  Whatever is not specifically legalized is forbidden. Welcome to the police state.  And I add the banana republic tag because of the outrageous fee that guarantees nothing.


  1. This sort of restriction on antennas is preempted and prohibited under federal law.
    At least one example of the Feds protecting people's rights against local tyranny.
    Too bad they don't get it right on gun rights.

    1. You have to remember that, like all bullies, they'll get away with just as much as anyone lets them get away with. The FCC said "reasonable accommodation" is OK, so they're going to take the taxpayers to court to define "reasonable". They don't care: the taxpayers pay for them, and since the plaintiff is a taxpayer in the city, he pays for both sides. If it gets too expensive, they'll raise everyone's taxes to pay for it!

      There's legal action pending on this, but I think it's still a good cautionary tale.

  2. I'm sure the ARRL will come to the aid of the Hams in this area, if they haven't already.

  3. So it seems one could erect all the antenna & towers one would wish for without a permit, so long as it is not HAM?


  4. Oh, heavens no!

    In every municipality I've had to deal with, "Commercial" towers and antennas, with the exception of Public Service towers and antennas like for the Police, are highly regulated.

    In this case, since Amateur Radio antennas were not mentioned in the city's municipal code, and were therefore not "regulated", the city enacted a law specifically covering them.

    And then slapped on a $1000 "permit fee" to sweeten their own deal.

    BTW, It's "ham" or "Ham" radio, NOT "HAM" radio, as it's not an acronym, so you don't use all capitals.

    A small point, yes, but very annoying to those of us who have an Amateur Radio license.

  5. Ah, was deliberately tracking the theme of HAM, and amateur; as in non commercial. Although had never seen capitalized as such before. Point taken. So, any NON-ham, non commercial is unregulated to erect, correct? The idea presenting is that any number of objects suggesting the appearance of an antenna may without regard to legislation be constructed on a property.

    So as to render the ordinance utterly irrelevant.


  6. Every city is different, and depends in large part who the "Nosy Nellies" are in the zoning department, and how aggressive they are about things like antennas, or the "wrong" color to paint your house.

    When I wanted to install antennas on my apartment building (the owner gave me permission) for my community wireless business, the city tried to severely "regulate" me by claiming I was in an "historic" part of the city, and referenced the city code.

    I drove around the entire area, taking pictures and addresses of "non-conforming" antennas that had been there either 'forever", or erected in the last year or two. I took my data to the planning commission, who hemmed and hawed, and finally told me to just go ahead and install them, and gave it to me in writing.

    Prior to that I had shown the data to the zoning department, who admitted, in writing, that they didn't have enough people to go around and enforce the code.

    It's unfortunate that the case in question will probably have to go to court, where it will be struck down, on the basis of Federal law, and dozens of other cases across the U.S. that have been ruled in favor of the Amateur radio licensee.

  7. It is a crappy village in western NEW YORK. What more does one need to know ? Chances are the hams complaining voted for the marxist Cuomo.

    1. Well, yeah, it is New York, but that's not the point. The point is the police state view that anything not specifically legalized is against the law, instead of things being legal by default. I live in a reliably red state county and it's showing up here, too.

      Besides, my experience with hams is that while they tend to be scrupulously law-abiding, they're a fairly conservative bunch. Chances are they didn't vote for that pig.