Eroding Support for the ADA, One Lawsuit at a Time

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From the Los Angeles Times comes an interesting profile of 35-year-old Jarek Molski—Polish born, mostly American raised, paraplegic since 18 from a car accident … and a one-man enforcer of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Since early 2003, Molski has filed more than 350 lawsuits against restaurants, wineries, bowling alleys, banks and assorted retail establishments that he alleges have failed to remove barriers to disabled access as required by federal law. […]

Business owners, their lawyers and government officials claim that Molski is running an extraordinary scam, using strong-arm legal tactics to pressure businesses into paying him off. According to attorneys for businesses sued by Molski, he has pocketed an average of $4,000 a case from settlements, often from insurance companies looking for the cheapest resolution. At least 55% of Molski's cases have been settled, and extrapolating from those numbers, Molski would have had a total income since 2003 of $770,000—not bad for someone without a job.

Molksi has sued more Central Coast wine-sellers than were in the movie Sideways (including two branches of the film's prominently featured Hitching Post restaurants). And besides lining his pockets, and inspiring his admirers and helpers to compare him with Rosa Parks, his activism, the article reports, has sparked a backlash—a Los Angeles judge has ruled him to be "vexatious," disabled people are getting treated shabbily in places like Morro Bay (where he has apparently sued one-third of all non-fast food restaurants), and now California is thinking about rolling back some of the extra bells and whistles it tacked onto the ADA.

Whole thing here. Link to a bunch of Reason's 20th century coverage of the ADA here.

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  1. I think this guy was on last night’s Curb Your Enthusiasim.

  2. Even though it his not his intent to expose the dark (but all too obvious) side of ADA style legislation, I encourage him and others like him to keep doing it.

  3. Damn, a full-time suer…what a great career choice! Rosa Parks, my ass. How much of that extorted money has he donated to charities that help the disabled? My bet is on $0.00.

    But rolling back a few extra “bells and whistles” so that the law cannot be taken advantage of by crooks like Molski, is not quite the same thing as eroding support for the principles behind the ADA in the first place. The real crooks here are the myriad government officials who force property owners to spend countless billions of dollars on the off chance that a disproportionate amount of disabled people will want to live in their apartment building. The principles behind the ADA (Lew Rockwell has destroyed it in words) – that the government can force private property owners to accommodate a particular subset of the population at their own expense – are still alive and well, and that is the problem here. This one guy taking advantage of the system isn’t going to make people sit up and say, hey, maybe this was a bad idea after all! No, at best, it’s just going to make people argue for tort reform (iow, more government involvement). Ugh. Rolling back those few bells and whistles only addresses the problems here, it doesn’t betray “eroding support” for the ADA…unfortunately.

  4. Clearly, Evan, you hate disabled people. Your ideas should be barred from the public eye, and any politician you support is clearly heartless and corrupt. Shame on you.

    So sayeth the Democratic Party. Scary, but true.

  5. Cuz, y’know, asking for help violates his rights.
    I am waiting for the day when all the short women that shop at the same grocery store I do sue the chain for descriminating against them by putting items on the upper shelf. At least they’ll stop pestering me.

  6. An example of the madness: I was designing a 4-story apartment building a couple of years ago. One story was below ground. During initial code review, the local code official forced us to build a winding concrete ramp along the side of the building – at a cost of roughly 80k – all so that one unit could be accessible. No matter that there were already several other accessible, adaptable units on the property that were not and had not ever been rented out by disabled tenants. Code says you gotta do this, so you gotta do this.

  7. Evan is right; while stories like this may inspire people to want to “fix” the ADA, the fact is that the life opporunities for disabled people have changed dramatically over the past decade, and people approve of that.

    The equivalent of a story like this is the “welfare cheat with the Cadillac” stories that were so popular in the 80s and early 90s. What that got was Welfare Reform, not rollback. And a lot more people have someone in a wheelchair that they care about than someone on AFDC.

  8. Matthew, of course I hate disabled people. Unless I support giving a particular class of people special rights, at the expense of others’ property rights and wealth, then I “hate” that particular class of people. This tactic is not relegated to the Dems, though—it’s used by beauro-trash of all stripes, regarding all kinds of issues. “It’s for the children” is another favorite. “It’s for the folks in wheelchairs!”.

    It’s a logical fallacy, of course. I forget exactly what its latin name is, but it’s something along the lines of “false choice”. Incorrectly eliminating options so as to corner your opponent into capitulating. “Either you support this tax increase, or you love Hitler!” Someone help me out—what is the formal name of that fallacy?

  9. Evan is also right about the construction requirements beeing far too strict and inflexible. If there was actually a move to bring common sense reforms to the ADA, it would pick up a much larger constituency across the spectrum than a lot of people would imagine.

    But a desire for common sense reform is hardly what motivates most of those who object.

  10. Jeff P: Learn to say no. That’s what I do. Help yourself, short old lady, because your problems are not Tim’s problems. Or, alternately, ask somebody who works at the store.

  11. I think “The Bogus Dilemma” covers it…

  12. joe: what does motivate those who object?

  13. Joe,

    Common sense reform would be a godsend for us…because everyone knows, when the code official starts making you spend money, the first place the building gets value-engineered is with the architectural details that the client doesn’t deem “necessary” to make money.

    But I do think that there are a great many objectors who would happily embrace common sense reform. Most objectors I know aren’t “all-or-nothing” hardcore principlists.

  14. dhex – selfish individualism…which is, um, different than that which motivates the supporters. I guess. Umm. Wait…

  15. “The real crooks here are the myriad government officials who force property owners to spend countless billions of dollars on the off chance that a disproportionate amount of disabled people will want to live in their apartment building. The principles behind the ADA (Lew Rockwell has destroyed it in words) – that the government can force private property owners to accommodate a particular subset of the population at their own expense – are still alive and well, and that is the problem here.”

    This makes more than enough sense to someone already well versed in the ways of big State nonsense, but to the non-Reason/Lew Rockwell/Cato dude, you sound more like “Rich scuz bags shouldn’t have to spend their cash on people who have had life shattering disabilities”.

    Solution? Show that the people with life shattering disabiilties can sometimes be rich scuz bags.

    Property rights might be the worst term to use in debates like this, sad as that may be.

  16. Evan–

    I think it’s either false dichotomy or false dilemma.

    My father was a quadriplegic from November 11, 1989, until his death, and he loathed people like this. He supported the idea that government buildings, like courtrooms, should be handicap-accessible, but he hated this legal fiction that really, there’s no such thing as a “handicap,” only people who are “differently abled.’

    Face it: if you’re unfortunate enough to become paralyzed, there are certain things that you just won’t be able to do. Unfortunately, as Molski proves, being an asshole isn’t on that list.

  17. Threadjack–

    Dhex, were you at last Saturday’s Porcupine Tree concert at Town Hall? If not, you have a doppelganger.

  18. Just as patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, “common sense reform” is the last refuge of a statist. But government lacks the proper feedback loop to know what “common sense” is. Ask yourself this: did they not want to use common sense in the first draft of the law?

  19. I second Evan. If I could achieve “The End of ADA as We Know It”, I’d be pretty happy.

  20. “Dhex, were you at last Saturday’s Porcupine Tree concert at Town Hall? If not, you have a doppelganger.”

    sadly, t’was not me.

    i’ve never been much of a prog (post prog, avant prog, etc) type guy.

  21. Unfortunately, as Molski proves, being an asshole isn’t on that list.

    Reminds my of this kid with Muscular Dystophy who lived in my neighborhood growing up. He was a few years younger than me, and his parents had taught him to hide behind his affliction like a shield. To the extent where if he acted like the spoild rotten jerk of a kid he was and you called him on it he’d say, “you can’t talk to me like that, I’m disabled!” Guh.

  22. Yeah, we had a guy in Sartoga, NY who sued the bejezus out of several government agencies and businesses, small and large. Met him at an ADA seminar. He had long since gone from hero to zero. He still had a couple of supporters, though.

    I was there as a building codes official (not the civil/environmental engineer that I really am). Most of it was forgetable, hell I had the ADA down cold, but there was one memorable statement: As we get older we all become increasingly disabled, so stop thinking of quadripelegic and wheelchairs. We’re all going to need ramps and elevators someday.

    As to money-wasting demands, some big-city codes guys can be real bastards. I’ve had DOT construction inspectors tell me that if they can bankrupt a contractor, they have done their job. All those guys are retired on WAAAAY too much state retirement fund money.

    But wait, Johnny, it doesn’t end there! God damn, I could go on about the things I’ve seen… but I won’t.

    Yeah, reform the ADA in every state because each state has adopted slightly different versions and some added a few bells here and a few bells there. Reform it if they need to get back to the original intent, but think of yourself at 80 years old when you do and get those wheelchairs out of your head.

  23. We’re all going to need ramps and elevators someday.

    Speak for yourself. My grandmother walked up a very steep flight of stairs to her second-floor bedroom every night until she was at least 90.

  24. Greed is good. Its tough to see the problem. If the enforcer brings vexatious claims, then the law has effective ways of dealing with that. On the other hand, if the guy is actually making money off his claims, that would indicate some need for reform in the law and/or the way people do business (and that is a valuable service indeed!!!). I don’t see why people on this site would begrudge an entrepreneur a chance to make a legal buck, which is all that’s going on here.

  25. dhex: “joe: what does motivate those who object?”

    I think Evan put it best with “But rolling back a few extra “bells and whistles” so that the law cannot be taken advantage of by crooks like Molski, is not quite the same thing as eroding support for the principles behind the ADA in the first place. The real crooks here are the myriad government officials who force property owners to spend countless billions of dollars on the off chance that a disproportionate amount of disabled people will want to live in their apartment building. The principles behind the ADA (Lew Rockwell has destroyed it in words) – that the government can force private property owners to accommodate a particular subset of the population at their own expense – are still alive and well, and that is the problem here.”

    The ADA tells property owners what they can do, and nothing – NOTHING – justifies such communist blabbady blabbady blah.

  26. I don’t see why people on this site would begrudge an entrepreneur a chance to make a legal buck, which is all that’s going on here.

    Maybe because the libertopian ideal is that people who become rich do so by producing an in-demand product or service, rather than placing burdens on those who do?

  27. If the enforcer brings vexatious claims, then the law has effective ways of dealing with that.

    No, it doesn’t. Not in practice anyway.

    I don’t see why people on this site would begrudge an entrepreneur a chance to make a legal buck, which is all that’s going on here.

    I believe what this fellow does falls into the category of “rent-seeking”, which is not entrepenuerial, and which most libertarians abhor.

  28. Evan, “everyone knows, when the code official starts making you spend money, the first place the building gets value-engineered is with the architectural details that the client doesn’t deem “necessary” to make money.” True dat. Yo yo yo!

    It’s a shame when the owner/builder/architect/engineers put in a ton work before speaking to the officials, because they end up having to design a really expensive, awkward “fix” into a finished plan, when they could have achieved a cheaper, better outcome by making sure they knew all the parameters up front.

  29. Would also like to point out that this private DA stuff (used here with the ADA, but also used in other areas of the law like trademark and antitrust), is an expedient used so that additional cops and prosecutors don’t need to be hired to enforce a new law that makes a lot of new conduct illegal.

    One advantage of this is (at least in theory) fewer cops.

    Another advantage is that the private da will have more incentive to sue carefully than do his publicly-funded enforcer counterparts.

    Look at it this way:

    I imagine that the gov’t said that instead of private enforcement of the ADA (eg, our bud Jarek), the government said that some agents and prosecutors would be re-dedicated to ADA cases. As a business owner, which would you rather face: a Jarek or a federal prosecutor? (“neither” is not a choice here)

    I mean if Jarek chooses his cases badly, then he goes out of business. If some prosecutors and FBI agents get ADA as their home turf? What could happen then? I don’t know specifically, but I think it would be worse, potentially much worse.

  30. Of course, Jow, your statement begs the question, “Should builders have to spend millions of dollars extra to provide access for handicapped customers who may never come?” Right now the law says “yes,” but I think the law is bullshit.

  31. in-demand product or service

    Law enforcement is an in-demand service, so Jarek does fine on that count.

    I believe what this fellow does falls into the category of “rent-seeking”, which is not entrepenuerial, and which most libertarians abhor.

    I’ll remember that next time we are discussing insurance companies or oil companies or any of the other oligolpolies so beloved here at h’n’r.

  32. And of course, “Jow” is supposed to be “Joe.”

  33. The ADA tells property owners what they can do, and nothing – NOTHING – justifies such communist blabbady blabbady blah.

    Remind me of a government program you’d really, really like scrapped and the “common-sense reforms” you’d shrug and accept instead? 🙂

    But yes, that’s roughly my belief. But I don’t expect most people to care about the effort and expense some other guy has to pay to make places accessible, so I don’t mind common-sense reform to mitigate the harms done. I don’t even mind vaguely useful token measures that would be called “common-sense reform”.

    Cue Thoreau to explain how I’m a terrible person who’s never going to spread the gospel of libertarianism because I expressed concern in what happens to construction companies and contractors. 😉

  34. to make a comment from the anti-ADA perspective:

    I don’t remember how thae ADA is justified as federal law under the Constitution. If it is “interstate commerce” I don’t like that at all. Policy-wise, I strongly believe that ADA-type laws, to the extent we have them, should be done at state and local levels. This, rather than the private d.a. aspect, is my issue with ADA.

  35. I don’t remember how thae ADA is justified as federal law under the Constitution. If it is “interstate commerce” I don’t like that at all.

    No offense, but you’re a little late to the party. 🙂 Every federal law is justifiable under the Constitution, and every definable human activity counts as “interstate commerce”.

  36. Law enforcement is an in-demand service, so Jarek does fine on that count.

    I guess you count drug informants as entrepreneurs, to.

  37. Barratry–i.e. filing 3 or more groundless judicial proceedings just to vex people–is against the law in California. (Cal Pen Code ?? 158, 159).

    An interesting case would be for a lawyer to track down these legless bandits and charge them all for barratry. Unless, by doing so 3 or more times, that lawyer would be liable for barratry.

    Fuck it. Just deflate the tires on their wheelchairs. Litigous gimps.

  38. Eric,

    “Remind me of a government program you’d really, really like scrapped and the “common-sense reforms” you’d shrug and accept instead?”

    You might recall the Democratic nominee for president saying some things about the Iraq War…

  39. Joe sayeth,

    “It’s a shame when the owner/builder/architect/engineers put in a ton work before speaking to the officials, because they end up having to design a really expensive, awkward “fix” into a finished plan, when they could have achieved a cheaper, better outcome by making sure they knew all the parameters up front.”

    That would be a valid statement, if all code officials interpreted the code the same way, and if they didn’t twist the wording to mean whatever they want it to mean.

    I’ll forgive you for your lack of knowledge on the subject, given that you’re probably not in the architecture business, and you probably don’t have to deal with powermongoring code officials on a regular basis. But, see, now you know. I have plenty of stories about bastard code officials interpreting the code in such a crazy way as to fit their agendas. And, what’s worse, the last thing a code official wants to have happen is to be proven wrong. So, the client is forced to pay the architect more money just to fight the code official’s idiocy—no small task, considering that his word is like gold with the state and local munies. Believe me, we’ve spent plenty of unnecessary time fighting stubborn code officials who made mistakes, but then, due to ego, etc., refused to make it right.

    The fact that you think that the IBC, state and local codes are just so cut-and-dried, just shows how little you really know about the reality of the building code.

  40. Eric-

    Maybe I went overboard before. Part of my objection the last time I went off on that tangent concerned the fact that the companies in question (oil companies) were enjoying record profits and consumers were experiencing unprecedented pain. Arguing from supply-side sympathies didn’t seem the way to go. Yeah, the ADA also involves sympathetic consumers, but there are also enough examples that fly in the face of common sense.

    My wife works retail. She and her co-workers are worried because one of those professional plaintiffs has sued her company recently, and they’re afraid that their store could be next. They’re pretty good about service, but even the smallest violation could trigger a suit, no matter how quickly and politely they remedy it. They’re particularly worried about the wheelchair accessible register stand: It’s lower and has more counter space, but when the register switches staff (somebody gets lunch, or a shift ends), there’s a lull of a few minutes while they count out the drawer, log in the new cashier, etc. That lull could be enough for a suit, even if they offer to help him at another register and a sales associate helps handle the packages and whatnot.

    Or at least they were worried recently. Maybe the storm has passed or something. I’m surprised that the company hasn’t hired a PI to take a photo of the professional plaintiff and show it to every employee: “If you see this guy, please bend over and kiss his ass however he likes it. We can’t afford a suit.”

    Not that they shouldn’t provide the best service to all customers at all times. But nothing is perfect, and if you know that somebody is particularly difficult you obviously are extra cautious.

  41. Thoreau,

    What condition was the wheelchair accessible checkstand in prior to the ADA? Do you know?

    Sounds like the ADA is making some people think about realistic, practical concenrns of disabled people at your wife’s store. That is something they should worry about because it is the right thing to do.

    Do you think the store (not your wife, the others) would do this worrying if the law did not force them to? I like to think they would, but the more I read h’n’r, the less I assume about things that should go without saying, like sympathy for the handicapped.

  42. “Remind me of a government program you’d really, really like scrapped and the “common-sense reforms” you’d shrug and accept instead?”

    You might recall the Democratic nominee for president saying some things about the Iraq War…

    Fair enough; that might count as one of the token changes I mentioned.

  43. BTW, Joe, the IBC comes with a checklist/workbook. In theory, as long as you satisfy all of the applicable conditions in the workbook, you meet code. And it is company policy here to perform a code review at the beginning of the design development phase, right after the schematic design is approved by the client. Yet, we still regularly have battles with various code officials. I’m sorry, but, even the tightest code review process can’t stand up agains overzealous code officials who derive pleasure from telling people what they can’t do.

  44. BTW, Joe, the IBC comes with a checklist/workbook. In theory, as long as you satisfy all of the applicable conditions in the workbook, you meet code. And it is company policy here to perform a code review at the beginning of the design development phase, right after the schematic design is approved by the client. Yet, we still regularly have battles with various code officials. I’m sorry, but, even the tightest code review process can’t stand up think their raison d’etre is telling people what they can’t do.

  45. Yes, Evan, I know. That’s why you should sit down with the people involved in project review at the beginning, rather than relying on the book. Not only do you head off the arguments, but you earn yourself a little wiggle room by demonstrating your willingness to cooperate, rather than showing up with a lawyer and telling the Building Commission what he HAS to do.

  46. small-l:

    I don’t claim to have a crystal ball that says what my wife’s boss would do in the absence of the ADA. My point concerns the present circumstances as they stand: It’s unreasonable to sue over the fact that the accessible checkstand was in the middle of short turn-over. Especially if a clerk will help the customer carry and handle the merchandise at some other checkstand, and bend over the counter to get the credit card and swipe it, and all the other stuff needed to make the sale happen.

    Would they be as happy to help in the absence of the ADA? I dunno. I’d like to hope that, at the very least, they’d want the sales revenue. (Not to sound coldly fixated on money, but I’d at least like to hope that my wife’s co-workers are bright enough to realize that the customer is king.)

    Either way, regardless of why they’re doing what they’re doing, it’s unreasonable to sue people who are trying to help but aren’t providing perfection.

  47. I don’t remember how thae ADA is justified as federal law under the Constitution.

    In a way that I can’t actually fathom, I’m pretty sure it is primarily justified under the Equal Protection clause.

  48. It’s a wonderful world for people whose hobby is looking for nits to pick.

  49. Sounds like the ADA is making some people think about realistic, practical concenrns of disabled people at your wife’s store. That is something they should worry about because it is the right thing to do.

    Hmm. I must have missed a different post by Thoreau. The one I read sounded like they were having to go to ridiculous extremes to avoid a lawsuit.

  50. If it were my property I’d settle the case then use my “savings” to arrange an unfortunate accident. Nothing illegal, just very, very unfortunate. Pianos do sometimes fall from windows.

  51. BTW, my wife’s store hasn’t actually been sued yet because the register was briefly unavailable and their efforts to compensate were deemed unsatisfactory. But management, based on suits against other stores in the chain, believes that these are vulnerabilities.

    Of course, take all of this with a grain of salt, since this info is what my wife told me based on what her boss told her based on what the boss’s boss said, etc.

  52. Without the ADA, we wouldn’t have many sidewalks around here on roads built between about 1910 and the 1990s. That, alone, makes me willing to put up with a lot of other nonsense from it.

    The absolutist “never tell any private business what to do” people really make me wish for karmic payback.

  53. That’s why you should sit down with the people involved in project review at the beginning, rather than relying on the book.

    And here we come full circle. Where joe sees efficiency and harmony through bureaucracy, I see a waste of time and money and the submission of individual preferences to the whims of bureaucrats.

  54. “I’d like to hope that, at the very least, they’d want the sales revenue.”

    Uh, the whole reason we have the ADA is that serving disabled people quite often ISN’T PROFITABLE.

    Sometimes you just have to decide if you want to live in a country where people with some moderate disabilities can function, or a country where they effectively can’t.

  55. “I’d like to hope that, at the very least, they’d want the sales revenue.”

    Uh, the whole reason we have the ADA is that serving disabled people quite often ISN’T PROFITABLE.

    Sometimes you just have to decide if you want to live in a country where people with some moderate disabilities can function, or a country where they effectively can’t.

  56. That’s why you should sit down with the people involved in project review at the beginning, rather than relying on the book.

    And here we come full circle. Where joe sees efficiency and harmony through bureaucracy, I see a waste of time and money and the submission of individual preferences to the whims of bureaucrats.

  57. That, alone, makes me willing to put up with a lot of other nonsense from it.

    No reason to use a needle to pop a balloon when a nuclear warhead will do the job just as nicely.

  58. Evan- bravo! Someone knows what they are talking about. Dont need to pare the thing down, we need to clairify it and remove the wiggle room for the inforcers.
    Think about ADA in the view of equal protection, just like all building codes. We force all businesses to comply with code having to do with flame spread, snow loads, welds in steel, coeffiencents of friction for bathroom tile, etc. This is the daily work of engineers and architects. But I dont think you would find many who would want to roll ADA back as I believe most feel that even if it is a pain, it is the right thing to do.
    And the Federales do get involved on oocation and once they are on your ass- they keep coming back- ask the partners in my firm.

  59. Uh, the whole reason we have the ADA is that serving disabled people quite often ISN’T PROFITABLE.

    Jebus. Thoreau is talking about a retail store where someone had to wait in line in their wheelchair an extra five minutes during a shift change, not about a case where the business is completely inaccessible. I worked in retail for three years about a decade and a half ago, and I never had any trouble accepting the money of the wheelchair-bound. It spends just the same as everyone else’s.

  60. Uh, the whole reason we have the ADA is that serving disabled people quite often ISN’T PROFITABLE.

    I was addressing the narrow question of whether a store clerk would help somebody lift a package, go around the counter to hold the credit card slip while the customer signs, and other things that some idiot apparently deems insufficient compliance and grounds for a lawsuit.

    Why did I address such a narrow question? I was pointing out the worst abuses of the ADA, and how ridiculous it is that well-meaning people could still be sued. Somebody asked if the clerks would be as well-meaning if there were no ADA, and I said I think so but I’m not sure. Again, I’m talking about a narrow circumstance involving frivolous suits.

    Don’t accuse me of taking up a general point that I have remained silent on. My thoughts on that general point would probably tick off the rest of the forum almost as much as they’d tick you off. And my preferences on the general question are probably politically impossible anyway. But the worst abuses are something where I think broader agreement is possible.

  61. That’s why you should sit down with the people involved in project review at the beginning, rather than relying on the book. Not only do you head off the arguments, but you earn yourself a little wiggle room by demonstrating your willingness to cooperate, rather than showing up with a lawyer and telling the Building Commission what he HAS to do.

    Joe, nobody said anything about relying on the IBC workbooks. But you completely dodge the issue of code officials’ subjective interpretations. Oh, yeah, sit down with everyone ahead of time and everything will be fine. That’s a sweet fantasy, but in reality, it doesn’t guarantee a thing.

    And that’s not to speak of the portions of the code that are in there and legally binding, yet are patently absurd and unbelievably costly…which is another issue entirely.

  62. Not only do you head off the arguments, but you earn yourself a little wiggle room by demonstrating your willingness to cooperate, rather than showing up with a lawyer and telling the Building Commission what he HAS to do.

    Translation: Just do as the useless administrator says and everything will be fine. They’re from the government, and they’re here to help.

  63. Evan, “And that’s not to speak of the portions of the code that are in there and legally binding, yet are patently absurd and unbelievably costly…which is another issue entirely.”

    Once again, I agree wholeheartedly. Of course, waving the book around and saying “There’s some stupid stuff in here” is the easy part.

    “Oh, yeah, sit down with everyone ahead of time and everything will be fine.” Not necessarily, but it’s certainly a better way to go about things than spending all your contracted hours without knowing what the City’s concerns are.

    “That’s a sweet fantasy, but in reality, it doesn’t guarantee a thing.” There are no guarantees in life. We can only play the percentages.

    You seem so hostile to the idea – what’s the downside of having an early meeting at Town Hall?

  64. “… you earn yourself a little wiggle room by demonstrating your willingness to cooperate …”

    Because, as we all know, man was made to serve the state, not the other way around.

    My favorite applications of the ADA are braille on outdoors signs (at the University of Pennsylvania – how the hell do they find the signs?) and on ATMs (how many blind people can use an ATM – the beeps don’t seem to contain much information).

  65. Timothy, “Prole,” the project reviewers aren’t there to serve the architect and developer. They’re there to serve the public. I have no doubt that a City Planner is useless from a developer’s point of view. A guardrail in the middle of a road is useless, even counterproductive, to someone who wants to take a left, too. That’s not the point.

    Also, Prole, if you check those ATMs, you’ll notice that the new ones come with jacks for headphones.

  66. “But I dont think you would find many who would want to roll ADA back as I believe most feel that even if it is a pain, it is the right thing to do.”

    The pure libertarian in me would roll it all back and let the market create incentives.

    The realist in me would roll back the more absurd and overly costly (and patently unfair) sections of the Act.

    Yeah, it’s the “right thing to do”, socially and morally speaking, in a vacuum…but, for a minute, put yourself in the shoes of a guy who buys a restaurant on a “difficult” site. He doesn’t have a whole lot of money, but he has enough to put together a business and try to make a living. But the ADA requires him to put in a massive ramping system around his difficult site, which would cost tens of thousands of dollars. So, since he doesn’t have the money to do it, he gives up his business plan and goes to work at Starbucks.

    It gets sticky, doesn’t it? It’s not always the wealthy fatcat vs the helpless paraplegic image that its supporters would have you believe. And in that situation, it’s just not so easy to make a judgment of righteousness, is it?

    Yes, there are some requirements in the ADA that make sense, and given the vast injustices that take place every day in this country, they’re pretty low on my list. On the other hand, there are tons of stupid little clauses that allow crooks liek Molski to sue over the smallest little inconvenience.

  67. What if the ADA gave you the option of complying with the law, or taking the costs of compliance and giving it to medical research?

  68. Developers and architects aren’t the public? Oh, that’s right they’re allowed to serve the public too, just unwillingly. Their rights to liberty and property are trumped by the “rights” of others not to be inconvenienced.

    Jacks for headphones? What about the drive up ATMs (I bet they have them too, but I’d like to see them get used)?

  69. One assumes that there are blind people who take cabs, or otherwise have drivers or friends that take them places. In any case, if they’re already manufacturing the walk-ups with them, it makes little sense — and would cost more — to make the drive-ups differently.

    And yes, I’ll hand in my decoder ring, but I have no problem, on equal protection grounds, with requiring banks to ensure that blind people have the same access to their deposits that sighted people do.

  70. Without the ADA, we wouldn’t have many sidewalks around here on roads built between about 1910 and the 1990s.
    M1EK- Wherever you live didn’t have sidewalks on the pre-1990s roads until ADA? That’s so (non-pun intended) lame.

  71. “That’s a sweet fantasy, but in reality, it doesn’t guarantee a thing.” There are no guarantees in life. We can only play the percentages.

    Hey, you were the one that offered the idea as a solution; all I was saying is that it wasn’t a viable one.

    You seem so hostile to the idea – what’s the downside of having an early meeting at Town Hall?

    Not hostile to the idea itself – I’ve sat down with code officials in those same meetings, or sent my drawings to them if the locality is long-distance – what I’m “hostile” towards is the idea that these town hall meetings really mean much if the shit goes down and Mr. Code Officer decides, down the road, that he wants to redefine “single path of travel”.

    But, again, all you’re doing is adding burden to the client and the architect—just so that Mr Code Officer can “prove his worth”.

    And what about the guys who actually write the codes. Like any beaurocracy, the way they justify their existence is by proposing more code. So, every few years, the code gets bigger, more complicated, more encompassing, more powerful—and not necessarily to any noble end; instead, just so that a group of code writers can justify their paycheck. Talk about gross incentives.

  72. Super Prole,

    “Developers and architects aren’t the public?” This is a valid and important point. There are many “publics,” they all have rights and are legitimate stakeholders.

    “Hey, you were the one that offered the idea as a solution; all I was saying is that it wasn’t a viable one.” It is a viable one, certainly moreso than the alternative. That it is not a guarantee doesn’t mean much.

    ‘what I’m “hostile” towards is the idea that these town hall meetings really mean much if the shit goes down and Mr. Code Officer decides, down the road, that he wants to redefine “single path of travel”.’ Which is much less likely to happen if you get him on board early.

    I think you misunderstand the impetus for having and revising codes. The silly “they’re just in it for themselves” argument is emotionally satisfying, I’m sure, but ultimately untrue. If you’d really like to see them improved, you’re not going to get anywhere if you’re unwilling to acknowledge that the existence of regulations is not the consequence of people getting off on a-thor-i-tie.

  73. joe:

    No offense, but at every level of government I ever have to deal with, I wind up dealing with petty dictators. The regulations create the fiefdoms, from the Barony of Motor Vehicles to the great Duchy of Internal Revenue.

    No matter the original intent of the regulation, every time one passes, another jackass is created to lord over us on the spot. The first order of business for the bureaucrat is always to establish how horrible they can make your life.

  74. Funny, Jason, I’m usually treated well.

    You couldn’t possibly have an attitude, could you?

  75. “M1EK- Wherever you live didn’t have sidewalks on the pre-1990s roads until ADA? That’s so (non-pun intended) lame.”

    Herman,

    During the love affair with the automobile-dominated way of life, Texas fell particularly hard. Neighborhoods developed mostly before WWII have some sidewalks; neighborhoods developed in about the 1980s afterwards have a bunch; but in between, nearly none (none on major roads, a few on inner streets). City code didn’t require them until the 1980s or later, I think (am not sure on when this change actually happened).

    What ADA has done is provided a stick with which to beat the local government into picking up the pace of their ongoing (glacial) retrofit of those roads with at least one side of sidewalks.

  76. As a self-hating G-man, I treat them with the same contempt that I feel for myself and they respond in kind. The Knights of the TSA are especially difficult. They usually insist that I saw open the lock on my luggage with a herring.

  77. “That, alone, makes me willing to put up with a lot of other nonsense from it.

    No reason to use a needle to pop a balloon when a nuclear warhead will do the job just as nicely.”

    Well, every other method of trying to get the city to spend a tenth as much on sidewalks as they do on roads, to work on the HUGE backlog of roads without sidewalks, failed.

    So given the choice between a bunch of pins that didn’t work and a nuclear warhead which DID…

    One of my few lasting accomplishments during five mostly wasted years on our Urban Transportation Commission was co-authoring a chunk of city code which was passed a couple of years ago which requires that sidewalks be added/completed while streets are being reconstructed unless the cost of doing so adds more than 20% to the overall project. There’s a hand grenade for you that worked — over time this will lessen the need for the nuclear warhead.

  78. Aside from the fact that the ADA is the kind of crap that should never exist in a free society, regulations like it inevitably punish small businessmen and entrepreneurs at the expense of corporations that can more easily absorb their costs.

  79. “Aside from the fact that the ADA is the kind of crap that should never exist in a free society,”

    Karmic payback is gonna be a bitch. Try living in a wheelchair some time and be told by smug jackasses on a libertarian forum that if the market doesn’t provide you enough ramps to enough public places (private businesses catering to the public), you should just sit there and take it.

  80. Karmic payback is gonna be a bitch.

    I’ll remember that when you and your family are killed in your Prius by a drunk truck driver who couldn’t be fired because his alcoholism was considered a disability.

  81. M1EK,

    Try running a private business on a tight margin, and being told by a smug jackass from the city govt that you have to install an extra $80K ramp for no reason. And just sit there and take it.

  82. But yes, the ADA is totally out of control. My normally sensible friend has a daughter who is allergic to many different kinds of food, to the extent that even touching them can cause a life-threatening reaction. She just started school this year.

    Unfortunately, a few of the projects in her kindergarten class involve handling some of these foods. So the teachers had her do alternative activities while the other kids do the food project. This was not good enough for my friend, since he felt she was being “left out”; he wanted the school to change the food projects so that his daughter could participate with the rest of the class. The principal said no way, so he’s currently pondering an ADA lawsuit, for which there seems to be some precedent, since food allergies can be considered a disability.

  83. I’ll remember that when you and your family are killed in your Prius by a drunk truck driver who couldn’t be fired because his alcoholism was considered a disability.

    Yes, because firing someone certainly will clear up that drinking problem, and will definitely keep them off the road.

    I pass Priuses every day on the road. It’s hardly gonna take a semi to wipe one out. Our hypothetical drunk could kill them all just fine in his own private vehicle.

  84. It’s hardly gonna take a semi to wipe one out.

    A pilot…
    A train engineer…
    A truck driver for hazardous materials…
    A dam operator…
    Your momma…

  85. The absolutist “never tell any private business what to do” people really make me wish for karmic payback.

    Heh. Like they say, wish hard enough…and you’ll get it.

  86. Funny, Jason, I’m usually treated well.
    You couldn’t possibly have an attitude, could you?

    Did you have an attitude those times you were treated poorly?

  87. Why joe, I’m shocked you would suggest such a thing.

    Let me put it to you this way. If I leave the office to go out for lunch knowing I have a meeting to get back to, I frequently will let the restaurant know that I’m in a hurry and they nearly always respond. They put the order on the fly, bring out the check right away, and so on. If they don’t work with me, I just make sure I let the manager know what went wrong from my perspective. If that makes me an asshole, so be it.

    Somehow when I express the same concern to the DMV, to the emmissions testers, to the courts for jury duty, to the sheriffs office for my CCW, to the IRS, to the inspectors who want to review plans for a deck, you name it – I only ever get variations of “Well, aren’t we in a hurry,” or “We’ll get to you when we get to you,” or that horrible, studied look that conveys that I’m standing in line or filling out forms for something important and I’d better go call my meeting off.

    Now, just like you said, there is no going to the manager to express a customer service grievance. The difference is that in the one case the store manager recognizes reputational risk and will at least hear me out, whereas the petty tyrant recognizes a subject when he sees one.

  88. MIEK,

    If I’m a “smug jackass” because I respect the property of others, then I wear the title with pride.

    And the disabled don’t have to just sit there and “take it.” They can patronize businesses that make reasonable accomodations for them, protest those that don’t (to convince others not to shop there), or even start their own businesses. The disabled aren’t the helpless creatures you make them out to be.

  89. Then again, the business owners don’t have to just sit there and “take it.” They can patronize nations (and states) that make reasonable accomodations for them, protest nations that don’t (to convince those nation to amend their laws by petitioning the government), or even run for office so they can change the laws themselves. Entrepreneurs aren’t the helpless creatures you make them out to be.

  90. I think maybe a piano should accidently fall from a ninth-floor window and squish that bug Molski. Oops, did I say that out loud?

  91. Dave W,

    That’s a pathetic analogy. Unlike my voluntary decision to patronize or not patronize any given business, there is nothing voluntary about complying with government regulations. There is no analogy between a business and a government. One acts to provide what customers demand, the other, makes the rules its “customers” will follow backs them up with force if necessary.

  92. There is no analogy between a business and a government.

    This kind of naivete is what keeps me from getting more deeply into libertarian causes.

  93. There’s nothing naive about it Dave. A business is fundamentally different than a government. This is a simple fact. Firms rely on you voluntarily shopping there to make a profit and stay in business. They have to please me and the rest of their customers to even exist. There is nothing voluntary about the payments I make to Fed.gov on a regular basis.

  94. That just breaks our hearts, Dave.

  95. Is it just me, or does joe’s suggestion to Evan just seem like another indication that something’s wrong with the ADA? That you need to have a meeting with a seemingly arbitrary enforcer ahead of time in order to figure out what the law “really” requires?

    It’s as if, as you approach a stop sign, you’re advised to have a meeting with a police officer on the way, to avoid getting a ticket even if you think you’ve properly stopped at the sign.

  96. There is nothing voluntary about the payments I make to Fed.gov on a regular basis.

    Disagree. When I came to disagree with the US gov’t, I took my business elsewhere (still have to pay AMT tho). So can you. So can any business owner who is sufficiently successful. here’s the key: you only need to make payments, follow US laws, etc, etc for as long as you remain in the US. You have now been given your option. Now excercise this freedom and stop complaining, Matt.

  97. As your case demonstrates, you have to physically move yourself out of their reach (and yet they still come after you) if you no longer want to deal with the government. If I don’t want to deal with Target anymore I just don’t enter their store anymore. No running away involved.

    Also, implicit in your argument is the claim that the government has a right to the fruits of my labor. Or alternatively, they own the right to all my labor and merely let me keep x% of it. I say no person or persons have a right to the fruits of my labor, government or otherwise.

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