Jeremy Trentelman is a resident of Ogden who recently built a cardboard fort for his three-year-old daughter. While his young daughter received a lesson in fatherly love and support, she is also now learning a lesson about the raw and invasive power of the state.
Mr. Trentelman has been admonished by a code enforcement officer for being in violation of city ordinance, which reads: “It is unlawful for any owner, occupant, agent or lessee of real property within the city, to allow, cause or permit the following material or objects to be in or upon any yard, garden, lawn, or outdoor premises of such property: 1. Junk or salvage material; 2. Litter; 3. Any abandoned vehicle or inoperable vehicle.”
In an interview with the Standard Examiner, he defended his front lawn feature: “It’s obvious it’s not junk. There is a slide over the side and child graffiti all over the boxes. It looks like a fort.”
Asked by Libertas Institute if he intends to fight the mandate, Mr. Trentelman responded no, stating that in his view “the problem is not with the code, more with [this] specific enforcer. He is kind of a mean guy.”
Clearly, the permissive city ordinance has allowed the officer, whether “mean” or not, to use broad authority to punish the family-friendly activity Mr. Trentelman has decided to conduct on his own property—an activity which harms no one, and which he claims has the support of many of his neighbors. This enforcement of positive law, apparently being done because of the roving invasiveness of the officer rather than any actual complaint, is violative of property rights.
It is particularly saddening to think of Mr. Trentelman’s daughter, and other neighborhood children, asking why the fort has to be taken down. The answer will not be attributed to natural causes such as rain or wind, but to artificial causes—the overbearing and punitive authority of a nanny state. No public school course can compare in teaching such a raw and realistic lesson in civics.