(Updated on Oct. 13, 2014)
On November 4th, citizens in the unincorporated areas of Elmore County will have the opportunity to vote for the “Limited Self-Governance Act” (sometimes referred to as ‘limited home rule”).
In 2005 the Alabama Legislature enacted the Limited Self-Governance Act. A “YES” vote on Amendment 6 would give the Elmore County Commission the authority to enact ordinances to address the following issues: 1) abatement of weeds as a public nuisance, (2) control of animals and animal nuisances, (3) control of litter or rubbish, (4) junkyard control of areas which create a public nuisance, (5) abatement of noise, unsanitary sewage, or pollution creating a public nuisance. Currently our county commission must acquire legislative approval in order address these issues.
At first glance, adopting the Limited Self Governance Act may seem like a good idea, but there’s more to the story. Property right activist, Don Casey, stated that if this act is passed the county commission will be given the authority to do the following:
“Searches of private property without a warrant.
Gives code enforcement officials the authority to declare personal property “junk”.
The declaration of personal property as “junk” and the issuance of an order requiring authorized disposal of personal property within 10 days.
An appeal of the official’s ruling that can only be heard by the county commission – the same body that hired the code enforcement official.
A ruling by the commission that is final – NO appeal to a higher authority is allowed.
Fines – $150.00 per day with a $5,000.00 cap. Associated costs can easily double that amount.
Failure to pay penalties– the county seizes your home/land and sells it at public auction. Other personal property that was declared to be junk is disposed of by code enforcement officials (the county keeps the money) and a bill for the costs of disposal is sent to the property owner.”
19 of Alabama’s 67 counties have adopted this act and each passage brings more controversy. Don Casey recounts an incident that happened in Marshall County. “Marshall County property owner Jean Tresch, wife of a retired Korean War Veteran, and living on a small fixed income, complained in 2007 to local law enforcement, that her next door neighbor was dealing in drugs. Jean’s complaint fell on deaf ears. But her neighbor’s retaliatory complaint to local code enforcement, that she harbored “junk,” by having yard sales on her property, resulted in a nerve racking ordeal that lasted more than a year. Publicity about Jean facing fines that she could not pay and that would result in the seizure of her home and land by the county brought an outcry and resulted in help from across north Alabama. Jean’s home was saved and the neighbor was eventually arrested for drug dealing, but not as a result of any action taken by the Commission.
“The Marshall County Commission’s response to the complaints? ‘It’s the law – if you don’t like it vote us out of office.’” The result? Of the five commissioners in office at the time, only one was left standing after the election.
I don’t think Elmore County citizens should give our county commission this powerful authority. The Elmore County Commission states that the main reasons to pass this amendment is to deal with animal control and litter issues. My county commissioner, David Bowen, receives about a dozen or so phone calls a year from constituents complaining about animal control problems. While these complaints are valid, the best way to address these issues is to pass individual laws through the state legislature that ensure adequate property rights protections and appeals processes. Adopting the Limited Self Governance Act will give our county commission the authority to pass ordnances that can violate our freedoms and property rights. Please vote NO on Amendment 6. See below for actual samples of ordinances passed by county commissions to enforce the Limited Self Governance Act. Visit our “2014 Election Center’ at http://www.wetumpkateaparty.com/ElectionCenter.aspx
View some county ordinances passed to enforce the Limited Self-Governance Act:
- Madison County (Pay particular attention to #7 and #8.)
Tuscaloosa County (Pay particular attention to #5-#10.)
Escambia County (Pay attention to Section 5.)