Howard Fields has had his 1981 Nissan plastered with warning stickers and towed away. He's been suspended from work seven times and was finally fired because he won't obey an unfair regulation. Fields is an autoworker at Ford's Lima, Ohio, plant. Employees with foreign cars are required to park in a back lot more than half a mile away from the factory. Fields filed grievances, but the United Auto Workers declined to back him up. Ford says he can have his job back, but only if he parks in the back lot or buys a domestic car. Fields says he'd rather have his pride than his job. Ford insists it stands for a principle. Others say it stands for Fix Or Repair Daily.
Joe Kaska, who'd operated a dry cleaning business in Anaheim, California, for 45 years, is being taken to the cleaners. He didn't know he was committing a crime when he canceled his membership in the California Dry Cleaners Association. The membership provided him with a $1,000 bond that state law requires. When he found out, he quickly obtained one, but the state Board of Fabric Care (??) ruled he needed a bond to cover the six months he was without one. No company was willing to issue that bond, and Kaska's offer to post cash for the period was rejected. Then he was arrested by state agents. The charges were finally dropped after Kaska wrote to his assemblyman, who sponsored a bill to abolish the Board of Fabric Care. In a massive lobbying effort aimed at the state's dry cleaners, the Fabric Care board's executive director let the truth slip out. "If the bill is successful, there would be a major increase in the number of dry cleaning establishments," wrote Michael Siegel, who would lose his job if the bill succeeds. The bill is being cleaned and pressed in committee.
The Los Angeles Department of Health Services thought little of spending a couple thousand dollars of taxpayers' money to tell junkies how to keep their needles clean. A brochure, entitled "Shooting Up and Your Health," was prepared by the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco and intended to convince drug users to wash their hypodermics with alcohol in order to reduce the danger of contracting AIDS. Distribution of the pamphlet was halted after two Los Angeles County supervisors objected. One called it "another example of bureaucrats going crazy." An embarrassed Health Department official conceded it was "inappropriate" for the department to tell people the proper way to shoot drugs.
Last summer, New York City was in the midst of one of its worst droughts. Severe restrictions on water use, especially by businesses, were vigorously enforced. So Irving Berkowitz bought 210,000 gallons of water from the city of Peekskill, New York, which had a surplus. He invested $50,000 to buy a barge to bring the water down the Hudson River so he could sell the precious liquid to commercial users. No way, said New York officials. Private sales might create difficulties in monitoring water-restriction regulations. "This is bureaucracy at its worst," said Berkowitz. "The city says it needs water, yet it is illegal for me to deliver it to anyone in the city." Berkowitz fought back by holding a press conference. After a front-page article in the New York Times, the city relented, issued a Health Department permit, and Berkowitz was allowed to sell his water.
Federal agencies are required to submit more than 3,000 reports to Congress at a cost of about $240 million a year. The fact that nobody ever reads the reports doesn't matter. For example, the Energy Department must report every year on the nation's coal reserves, even though conservative estimates show they will last for three centuries. The Education Department is obliged to report every two years on the findings of the Office of Education Professional Development (abolished in 1981!). The Office of Management and Budget is trying to eliminate the paper blizzard, but is running into some opposition. Sen. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. (R–Conn.) has objected to eliminating the annual report by the Education Department on activities of Centers on Education Media and Materials for the Handicapped even though the budget office says the report provides no useful information that is not reported elsewhere. Weicker suggests this report be written every third year. The Great Compromiser.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".