As D.C. libertarians rally around the Jefferson 1 -- you can donate here -- consider another local put upon by the small tyrants of the D.C. establishment. His story comes via The Dupont Current, an off-line only freebie.
Jessica Gould reports:
On Monday, James Alefantis, co-owner of Comet Ping Pong, presented a public-space application to the North Cleveland Park, Forest Hills and Tenleytown advisory neighborhood commission.
Why has this good citizen petitioned his representatives?
A lovely American story, isn't it? Who doesn't like to see a small businessman succeed? Who could object to such a man creating a nicer setting for customers, stimulating the economy and contributing more to local coffers?
Yes, it is absurd that one needs a permit for a ping pong table. I'd be on Mr. Alefantis' side even if he never sought one. But here is what actually happened:
Okay, so this poor guy did due diligence, consulting some obscure municipal office about a simple ping pong table. You're all set, his government told him.
As it happens, I have seen the ping pong table. I have also considered securing duel citizenship in some small third world nation whose national ping pong team is poor enough that I might sneak my way into the Olympics. In less ambitious moments, I've told my friend Chris Beam that we should play ping pong sometime. So for me the table most certainly served as an advertisement.
How foolish, I now realize -- Chris, let me apologize for my recklessness. Why?
Commissioner Daniel Klibanhoff said ping pong players might be tempted to follow errant balls into the street.
There was one commissioner who ignored these grave pragmatic concerns.
Furthermore, she said, she objected to the fence with the freestanding posts and would prefer to see planters mark the bounds of the sidewalk cafe.
Before I note what happened, consider that all this nonsense is a pretty major disincentive for a business owner thinking about modest expansion. Going before the city basically gets you a bunch of scrutiny as to whether you've ever violated a bunch of petty rules. So what did happen?
Alefantis, apparently broken and resigned to the necessary groveling expected by small tyrants:
"I think they are all good suggestions... also I want to apologize to anyone who was offended by the outdoor ping pong table."
And after all that, a couple of commissioners still voted against allowing this businessman to improve his business!!
I'm sure these commissioners are perfectly nice people, but their attitudes toward the proper role of government -- petty, bullying, imposing lots of unnecessary rules, substituting their personal preferences for the carefully thought out aesthetic preferences of a businessman expanding his livelihood -- are gravely flawed. If you agree why not contact them -- politely and using reasoned arguments -- and tell them so.
Meanwhile, so much for outdoor ping pong on these lovely spring days.
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