From the New York Times:
Will the nanny state take away our right to drink too much soda? Will the police rob us of privacy in the name of fighting terrorism? In an era of polarized politics, the fear of government encroachment is one thing that unifies Americans from the left and the right.
But here’s a news flash from the municipal trenches, where local governments these days worry more about keeping the lights on: The discussion about government’s role in places like this struggling former lumber town centers less on philosophy or politics than on practicality, triage and risk. And now that dynamic has led to an unlikely place in the road: helmet laws.
For 15 years, until June 1, Milton, population 7,000, 45 minutes south of Seattle, required helmets for all bicyclists and skateboarders. But with its 12-officer police force stressed by an increase in domestic violence, alcohol abuseand property crime, all of which surged through the recession, law enforcement priorities now go way beyond hectoring people about their headgear.
And an inability to enforce a law on the books, the town’s insurance consultant argued, created administrative unevenness that — in the event of an accident by someone who was not nagged or cited about helmet use — posed a liability risk that could bankrupt the community with one swipe from a punitive-minded jury.
So in a unanimous vote of the City Council on May 21, helmet laws went the way of Milton’s library and fire department, both of which closed in 2010 and were replaced by regionally shared systems with neighboring communities.
To read the complete story, click here.