Natural Disasters

Volunteer Tree-Trimmer Fined $275, Told to Leave Minneapolis, After Helping Tornado Victims Outside His Assigned Area

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Quick! Someone call the licensing department!

Read all about the outrage in the first two-thirds of this Minneapolis Star Tribune column by Jon Tevlin. Then prepare to let the anger turn into despair, when Tevlin opines that the bad guys in this story "actually make some good points." Here they are:

Sgt. Steve McCarty, spokesman for the MPD, said the area was dangerous that day, with downed powerlines and teetering structures. "He was not authorized to be in that zone," McCarty said, explaining that everybody who ignored barricades was cited, regardless of his or her intentions.

McCarty said police were working in a chaotic environment and their first job was to keep people safe. He's sorry [Mike] Haege got a ticket, however, and noted that he might have a good shot at an appeal.

Matt Laible, spokesman for the city, said Haege was doing work in a zone that he hadn't been assigned to, work that should only have been done by a contractor licensed in Minneapolis. Laible said 18 citations were issued to people for working without a permit.

Ben Post works for Urban Homeworks, and sympathizes with Haege. But he said volunteers were given explicit directions to stay out of banned zones, so if Haege was in one, he was on his own.

"People were super ramped up to help, and frankly there wasn't much to do," he said. "The hard part is, I'm sure people were asking volunteers for help in those areas. But if we just released 600 people into the neighborhood, it would have been a nightmare."

Statist vs. decentralized responses to disaster is one of Reason's greatest, if more idiosyncratic, subjects. Thanks to reader Vivek N. Iyer for the tip.