Friday, August 02, 2013

Equal protection from health department bureaucrats? Just give that wheel a heave.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

The preceding is attributed to the German pastor Martin Niemöller, and whatever its exact wording, stands as a powerful refutation of apathy in the political sphere. I quote this passage today not because it is particularly relevant to PourGate, although it is to some degree, but because I seriously doubt that anyone in the health department (or the higher levels of county "government") has ever bothered reading history ... and the word "history" just might be redundant.

Mangled Semantics Department: Since its vaguely delineated decision in last week's appeals hearing, the Floyd County Health Department now finds itself in the position of insisting all at once that beer is food, and thus subject to control v.v. temporary food serving permits, and yet at the same time magnanimously waiving the fee for such "alcohol-only" permits.

1. Permits are still needed.
2. Void the citation.
3. Suspend fees until further notice. Collection of fees from alcohol-only vendors will be suspended.
4. Inspections are not suspended.
5. No refund of fees.

Thus, beer is food -- except when it isn't, which is to say that beer isn't food when the health department's snapshot perception of Fort Wayne v Kotsopoulos (an Indiana appeals court case that entirely eluded the supposed erudition of health department counsel) is that other regulatory entities seeking to encroach on the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission's historically defined bailiwick may do so sans fees like those sought by Ft. Wayne.

But if beer is food, and fees for alcohol-only vendors are suspended, then what is the justification for continuing to charge vendors who are dealing in actual food?

Wait: Didn't they say beer is food?

Verily, semantics are howling in pain to an extent previously witnessed only within the interior worlds of Eco Warriors, but of course it all depends on what the meaning of food is, and to date, the health department has produced that one solitary e-mail from a state health department functionary as proof that beer is indeed food, only to hedge on the matter when it comes to fees.

The illogical pretzel twists don't stop there. If the fees were improperly applied, then why is there no refund of improper fees already paid?

If the citation is to be voided, how can the permit requirement still be enforced?

And if it isn't about the money, then why are fees being charged at all -- to anyone?

In its zeal to expand regulatory control without the messy expedient of writing actual law, the Floyd County Health Department's own board has further explicated the department's deficiencies by issuing muddle where clarity was sought. It would appear that we'll need to travel elsewhere for relief.

Yesterday: ON THE AVENUES: "Kneel and Kiss My Ring, You Degraded Alcoholic."

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