Confehr: Who's going to enforce the rules around here?

Friday, May 6, 2011

With Mother's Day and Decoration Day at Lewisburg cemeteries around the corner, the incomplete debate over rules on how graves may be decorated at city-owned cemeteries has a few questions lurking in the background.

It's beyond the question of enforcement. Is this a job for the police? One might wonder what judge will rule on the rules? Presumably, it would be Lewisburg City Court Judge Roger Brandon. However, before a case is to be prosecuted by City Attorney Steve Broadway, city officials ought to ask themselves whether there is enough evidence to substantiate any charge alleging violation of the rules.

For those unfamiliar with the chain of events that led to these questions, here's a synopsis.

Last year, Councilman Ronald McRady, chairman of the City Cemetery Board, presented a recommendation for new rules for operation of the city-owned cemeteries. A brochure was developed to have the rules in a city document suitable for distribution by local mortuaries. The City Council unanimously voted for the new rules, printing the brochure and advertisement of the changes. When grass mowing season started, enforcement began with county jail trusties removing decorations such as angels, solar lights, and outlines for graves to contain decorative rocks, presumably placed there to prevent someone from walking over the deceased's body.

Removal of such decorations resulted in public outcry. A frequently heard point was that people shouldn't be told how to grieve. The response to that - largely from those who describe themselves as a quiet majority - was that some regularity is worthwhile. The clamor didn't include the old saw about one man's trash is another's treasure, but it got close as different tastes have been revealed in what's carved on otherwise inoffensive stones.

Ultimately, a practical issue emerged. Regularity of grave decoration allows swift completion of the mowing. Details can be debated.

However, amid the clamor were promises from some heirs, survivors, relatives and friends that they intend to decorate their loved one's grave as they see fit this year.

And so the question of enforcement arises again.

Now, there's a political prediction that when the Lewisburg City Council meets on Tuesday -- after this week's city election --there will be another 3-2 vote by the council to change the ordinance setting forth the new rules on grave decorations.

If that's so - and it could depend on the results of Tuesday's election - who will take the next step toward enforcement on this Mother's Day weekend?

It's one thing to clear a path for a mower. It's an entirely different thing to name someone in a complaint about grave decoration rules being violated.

It would make for a remarkable news story if such a case went to court, but it's not like the Tribune has such a slow news day as to be, and pardon the pun, dying for the story. However, in the unlikely event that a grave decorator is cited to court, it's going to be perceived as news because it seems so unlikely.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.