Editorial: Follow thy own rules, councilors

If SLO City Council members expect the public to follow the city’s ridiculous law that requires trash containers to be hidden from public view, shouldn’t they lead by example?

Of course they should.

Yet as Tribune reporter AnnMarie Cornejo found, only one of five council members — Dan Carpenter — was in compliance with the ordinance. The other four stored trash containers that were visible from the street — a clear violation of the ordinance.

Even worse, of the four who were violating the rule, only Mayor Jan Marx took immediate steps to comply with the requirements.

Councilman John Asbaugh said he’s “working on a solution” and Councilwoman Kathy Smith said she didn’t think the law applied to her because she lives in a mobile-home park where the streets are not public.

Councilman Andrew Carter admitted he was technically in violation of the ordinance, but he told The Tribune that he has no intention of moving his trash can, unless someone reports him.

“I don’t think that a reasonable person would say where I keep my trash can is a problem,” said Carter, “but a literal interpretation of the law says it is.”

We agree that a “reasonable person” would not be offended by the sight of a trash can or green waste container tucked away behind a bush, under a deck or in some other inconspicuous place — even if it is visible from the street. That’s exactly why we opposed this silly regulation when the city began enforcing it last March.

However, once a city ordinance is on the books, it’s the duty of the entire City Council to follow it to the letter of the law. Anything less implies that council members believe themselves to be above the law.

That said, we believe it’s time for the council to come clean about the garbage can ordinance. It should admit that it’s impractical and needs to be tweaked.

An ordinance forbidding the worst offenses —such as leaving a row of unsightly garbage cans curbside for days on end — is one thing.

But the law as it’s currently written reeks of over-regulation. If the council members themselves aren’t going to comply with it, it’s time to repeal the ban on visible garbage cans.