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Small town tyranny


Tags Big Government


The Ragbrai is an annual bike ride across Iowa. One of the designated stops happens to be the Coralville/Iowa City area, where I live.

In the mail today was a publication issued by the city of Coralville announcing the rules that would be in effect for the race. One of the rules has to do with outdoor entertainment:

Any person who provides outdoor entertainment on his/her premises or anywhere else in Coralville shall first obtain an Outdoor Entertainment Permit from the RAGBRAI© Committee. ... The Outdoor Entertainment Permit will satisfy the requirement for a Sound Equipment Permit normally required under the City Code. The fee for this permit shall be $300.

It then goes on to list the additional requirements (no loud music, events must end by 11pm, some others). But here are two juicy ones:

  • No sale or provision of canned or glass bottled beverages will be allowed.
  • Each person who obtains a permit for outdoor entertainment shall have a uniformed bonded security officer on duty and on the premises at all times that the outdoor entertainment takes place.

There is, of course, another permit required to sell drinks and food. This is not surprising. What's really sad is that anyone who already has a permit to sell food and drinks can do so for the purpose of this bike race. However, anyone who does not have one must obtain one from the city. Thus, this hurts the ordinary person, the non-full-time entrepreneur, the kid selling lemonade, and anyone who wants to be a part of this race and maybe make a buck or two. How fair, huh.

So, in the end, I would be unable to invite cyclists over to my yard for some R&R. I would also like to know what the city means by "entertainment." Would I need a permit to tell jokes? Tap dance?

Not all the evil comes from Washington. Small towns have their fair share of despots.

Manuel Lora is a multimedia producer at Cornell University.

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