Salt Lake City is currently toying with the idea of requiring businesses to accommodate walk-ups to drive through windows in the city. The change could require fast food joints, banks, dry-cleaners, and basically any location where you can pick up or drop off items from your car to find ways to allow people on foot or on bikes to perform their business.
The Salt Lake City Council has received quite a bit of push back on the issue. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank noted in a statement that some areas have seen increases in robberies in cities that have enacted similar ordinances, but he also said that the police department is not inherently opposed to the idea. The council, for its part, says that it is attempting to further encourage walking and biking in the city in an attempt to create a more vibrant city and reduce pollution from cars.
You will note that we have devoted nearly 150 words to talking about city issues in an article designed to discuss a statewide change to the law.
And that is the problem with HB 160 – Drive-Through Service Usage Amendments from Republican Representative Johnny Anderson of Taylorsville. In short, Anderson’s bill smacks of legislative overreach and a disregard for local control.
Anderson’s bill, if successful, would stop the Salt Lake City Council’s work in its tracks by expressly stating that a county can not deny a business licence to a company simply because they have a drive through that isn’t open to walk/bike-ups.
Now, it may very well turn out that Salt Lake City is making a bad decision in attempting to push forward an ordinance that will change how drive-through’s work. It may even turn out that such a change will have a negative effect on business in the state, but this does not inherently justify state intervention.
Just as the states are incubators for federal law, cities are incubators for state legislation, and cities need to be given some flexibility in how they address issues such as walkablity, traffic control, pollution, and crime. The needs and capabilities of cities are inherently different, and what is good for Salt Lake may fail miserably for Taylorsville… but that needs to be Salt Lake’s or Taylorsville’s decision to make.
Lawmakers forget that cities are living things, defined by what their citizens want and demand. If the citizens of Salt Lake City truly value the ability to walk up to a drive-through more than attracting certain businesses in their neighborhoods, they should be allowed to do so.
Anderson’s bill also strikes of irony when one considers how often lawmakers bemoan federal overreach. Though arguments can be made for federal intervention in state laws, and arguments can be made for state intervention into local issues, a critical eye should always be placed on legislation where one level of government is telling a lower level of government how to respond.
We have seen this type of overreach before from the legislature in prior years. Most notably, lawmakers have attempted to stop attempts by Salt Lake City to restrict the number of electronic billboards in the municipality. Such bills have died in the past due to similar concerns of legislative overreach, and Anderson’s bill should meet the same fate.
To contact Representative Anderson, click here or call 801-898-1168.
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