Town By-Laws

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
    The town has experienced problems with persons discharging “Silly String” in an around public ways of the town. “Silly String” is causing a deterioration of the aesthetics of the community and damage to personal property. The public safety, health and welfare are adversely affected by the discharge of “Silly String” at parades and other public gatherings …..

    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.

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