Ann Arbor’s idle busybodies

15 08 2011

Heard the one about Ann Arbor banning idling vehicles?

No, it’s not a bad joke – it’s a proposed ordinance that Ann Arbor’s city council has been developing since 2002. Catch up on its specifics at

The Ann Arbor mentality – a reliable proxy for the progressive mentality – seems perfectly calibrated to make the blood of anti-regulation crazies like myself boil. We simply fail to understand why a top-down command-and-control edict is necessary to address vehicle idling when individuals acting in their best interest could do a far more efficient job.

But wait, a typical concerned Ann Arborite might interject. Idling impacts air quality and increases our use of fossil fuels! A citywide ban would save drivers gasoline and prevent vehicle wear and tear!

If your car looks like this when you idle, CO2 emissions should be the least of your concerns

None of that is necessarily false, which makes the imposition of a ban even more unnecessary. Ann Arbor may occupy its own little bubble, but even the most spaced-out Treetown denizen must realize that gas ain’t exactly cheap these days. No driver would willingly waste fuel at close to $4.00/gallon. Unnecessarily idling for long periods is already an unattractive prospect. The market has created, as if by magic, an incentive to be fuel efficient.

There must be something more to this proposed ordinance. Look just a bit below the surface, and one detects the ulterior motives:

First, revenue. Should the ban be enacted, punishment for idling will not consist of a heartfelt plea to reduce, reuse, and recycle or a deep conversation about sustainability over wheatgrass shots. As usual, the regulators’ good intentions are to be backed up by substantial fines – $100 per offense for private vehicles and $500 for commercial vehicles. Ouch. Given the high number of visitors Ann Arbor receives, the idling ban would be a great opportunity for city authorities to prey on the innocent. Don’t think that this is merely a happy accident.

Second, bragging rights. Much like the U-M campus-wide smoking ban, the proposed idling ban is carefully engineered to stroke the egos of Those Who Know Best. There’s a peculiar rivalry between certain institutions to collect the most Progressive Gold Stars, which I imagine are affixed, kindergarten-style, to some Progressive Achievement Posterboard.

If this seems ridiculous to you, refer to the article. In reference to previous idling bans passed in other municipalities, Ann Arbor City Council Member and ban proponent Margie Teall explained how “it shows how we are not always at the cutting edge of things.”

Right. Because responsible government consists of elected busybodies striving to out-regulate other bastions of progressivism like Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Perhaps Ann Arbor deserves this particular ban. Residents might even blindly support it. Ideally, however, the threat of one more asinine ordinance should cause Ann Arbor residents to reconsider their embrace of well-intentioned regulations that inevitably become instruments of control.




One response

3 11 2011
Leaders or Lemmings? « Graham Kozak’s Blog

[…] Arbor’s proposed vehicle idling ban seems to have run out of gas, for now at least. That doesn’t mean it can’t still offer […]

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