Recently we had kerfuffle in Middleboro about changes to the town by-laws that will make it easier to fine people for certain offenses such as swearing, shoveling snow into the street, and smoking …. uh … what was it …. um … oh yeah …. marijuana. It got me thinking about town by-laws and what the heck are they exactly. My all time favorite by-law is definitely the “Silly String” by-law described further on.
Massachusetts has more laws than you can shake a stick at and many are only applicable in a given town if that town votes to accept the law. Our town by-laws are mostly a list of state laws that were locally accepted at town meeting. Each year the Middleboro Town Clerk updates the list of by-laws. Here is the 2011 Town By-Laws.
Reading over the document I have several observations:
- We had some sort of serious horse problem in the 20’s
- Throwing a banana peel on the ground – funny though it be – is illegal according a by-law adopted in March 1927
- It is illegal to throw snow balls “or other missiles” …. DAMNIT.
- Somebody in the 20’s was a real killjoy
- Town meeting quorum dropped from 250 to 150 in 1942 – side effect of US entry into WWII in 1941?
- Up until 1973 it was OK to drink alcohol in your car and in public
- As of 1988, if you have a child out of wed lock, it will cost you $10 amend the birth certificate if you later “legitimize” the birth.
- There is a fee of $100 for an “automatic amusement device” … hmmm …. kinky.
- We didn’t have a Capital Planning Committee until 1990. How did we decide to buy $1M fire apparatus before that?
- The 53 year period from 1927 to 1980 created 10 pages of by-laws. The subsequent 31 years created 45 pages.
- On Sept 24 2001, just 13 days after the 911 attacks, we adopted a by-law to safeguard the citizens of Middleboro: Article 28 – Silly String
There is a hefty $300 fine for “Silly String” infractions – the same as the proposed fine for marijuana ….. coincidence?…….
There’s lots more but you get the gist.