Saw this initially over at That Mr. G Guy’s Blog, and almost didn’t believe it. Even as jaded as I am, I’m still kinda shocked once in a while, when something just seems ludicrous.
And this is one of those times.
A local lunch lady says she may no longer be able to serve free food to her community due to a law in her town.
For weeks, Angela Prattis has run a free lunch program in the Toby Farms community of Chester Township. As many as 60 children a day receive a free sandwich, fruit and milk during the summer. The program is funded by the state department of education and administered by the archdiocese of Philadelphia which drops off the boxed lunches daily.
Prattis tells NBC10 she was just put on notice by the township however and received a letter telling her that she needs a variance to run the program in the residential area.
“It’s a letter stating, ‘shut it down or face a $600 fine,’” said Prattis.
“Apparently the township has said there was one more hurdle that she had to jump from their point of view,” said Anne Ayella of the Archdiocese. “But from our point of view she’s done everything right.”
NBC10 spoke with Bill Pisarek, the Chester Township business manager, to find out what exactly she’s in violation of.
“Basically the property is in an R3 residential zone,” said Pisarek.
According to the town, Prattis is zoned residential and therefore needs a variance to offer free lunches. Pisarek told NBC10 she can apply for a variance. It costs $1,000 just to apply however.
“We’re not here to go after her, to hurt her, to take money from her or to prevent her from feeding kids that need the food,” said Pisarek.
Of course they’re not there to take her money or prevent her from feeding kids….which is why they threatened her with the fines and to shut her down. They’re just trying to help her.
Remember the article from yesterday, where the neighbors of the lady in Virginia showed up with pitchforks to illustrate their “displeasure” with the local government’s arbitrary rules? I’m wondering if we need to send some pitchforks over to Philly.
Here’s just a little bit more, this time from Mr. G’s post:
“You have houses here, the roofs are falling in, and they could be focused on a lot of more serious issues than me feeding children,” (Prattis) said.
Chester Township, which has a per capita income of $19,000 a year, says Prattis lives in a residential zone, hence handing out food to children is not allowed. The township says she needs to go before a zoning board to ask for a variance, which would cost her up to $1,000 in administrative fees.
“I don’t think it’s my responsibility to go to her to say, ‘why don’t you come to talk to me to see if there’s something that we can do to help your program,’” William Pisarek, the Chester Township business manager, said.
Back a couple hundred years ago, I may have agreed with Mr. Pisarek. Once, when laws were simple, ignorance of the law was not an excuse for not adhering to the law. But now? It’s absolutely Mr. Pisarek’s responsibility to contact Angela Prattis. Even the archdiocese thinks she is in compliance. Let’s face it: with the Labyrinthian zoning laws, the layer upon layer of permits, and all the blankety-blank fees (which only serve to prevent anyone from doing anything at anytime without the government’s imprimatur), EVERYONE is ignorant of most of the laws on the books, including most of the politicians.
However, I have an additional problem with this. At the beginning of the article, did you happen to notice who “funds” this program? That’s right, boys and girls: it’s funded by the “state department of education”, which means, by US. Now I’m not saying that this is a bad program; far from it. But look at the issue: one level of government “funds” the program (with taxes), it takes its share (always), then lets the archdiocese administer it. I’m sure the archdiocese has some administrative costs as well. Then, with the remaining money they buy food for the poor….except that the folks like Angela Prattis then have to pay MORE taxes/fees/dues for the privilege of doing something which she ALREADY PAID FOR WITH HER TAXES once.
It’s times like this when I realize (for about the gazillionth time) that our government looks at us like a farmer does a cow, …minus the affection and pride, of course.