At the Manistique City Council meeting of June 12, 2000, David Huddleston, Manistique City Assessor, was wearing one of his many government hats. As City Zoning Administrator, he asked Council members to interpret the City's fire district code, relative to some requested exceptions pertaining to a planned new building in the downtown business district. The City Council had chosen, previously, to exempt selected projects from code requirements, based on the whim of Council members, a point accentuated by Councilman Hoag and denied by no other member. Huddleston requested the Council opinion concerning the current contested fire district requirements, as others had been been considered, previously.
Imagine Huddleston's position. As one who has the responsibility to see building projects meet zoning fire regulations, he is almost forced to take each contested project to Council to get members interpretation of who or what is subject to exemption from the regulations. As such, the fire district regulations are worth less, if politicians can exempt particular building projects they find merit in for their personal reasons.
Why call the code regulations, if they have subjective meaning? Wouldn't whimsies be more appropriate? How can Huddleston administer the regulations in a fair and equitable manner to all, when Council members may second guess him and interpret the regulations to fit their personal view. What knowledge or experience has a majority of Council members, to be second guessing public safety related regulations that are Huddleston's job to administer?
The fire district regulations codes were written by professionals (I hope) to minimize the destruction from, and spread of fire. To require a fire proof exterior, of a new commercial downtown building, is reasonable. It reduces the chance of a single building fire reducing the commercial heart of a city to smoldering rubble.
Why should exemptions be made that put others at risk? Would any business person opt for the expense of meeting fire codes if cheaper or more aesthetically pleasing options were available? Does political expedience hold precedence over regulations that were created with public safety in mind?
If the fire district code is obsolete, due to changed philosophy or improvements in building design and materials, then a new code should be written and administered equitably. It is inherently unjust for a group of politicians to interpret regulations to suit their particular view of the world, or the views of special interests that knock on their doors. It inspires no public confidence if politicians become instant experts in disciplines for which they have no credentials.
Government by whim, in Manistique and Schoolcraft County, is long overdue to cease.