Everybody knows you aren’t supposed to litter. Everybody knows that you aren’t supposed to drive on the beach without a sticker, and everybody knows that you aren’t supposed to light off illegal fireworks in East Hampton.
But unfortunately, some people do, and they get fined for it.
Over in East Hampton, the Town sees an opportunity to make a little more money by raising the fines for these activities, but in my opinion, this plan will backfire. Officials want to drastically increase fines, I guess because they think that the current fines aren’t enough of a deterrent. Town code violations may have fines that will double this summer if things go through in East Hampton, with some fines even TRIPLING if you do not pay them within 30 days.
For example, if you are caught driving on the beach without a permit and do not pay the fine for $250 within 30 days, the proposed new law will have that penalty go up to $800. A littering ticker for $100 goes up to $350 if you don’t pay it after 90 days. In other words, if you have a full time job in Manhattan, lose the ticket that you received and can’t get away from your job to come to court to pay in person, you are SOL.
The reality is that people who litter or drive on the beach without the proper permits are more or less, complete jerks, and I’m happy to fine them. But it’s a give and take. If these proposed fee changes go through, here’s what will end up happening: the Town will make a little extra money, but in the grand scheme of the town, it will be completely meaningless in terms of revenue, and the second thing that will happen is the Town will continue to go down the road of turning tourists off to the area. Oh and finally, I can guarantee you that in a few more years, these fines will increase, yet again.
I don’t know why it is so hard for our local government to understand that we are in the business of making tourists happy. ABSOLUTELY punish people who break the law (few people are fined for littering because it doesn’t happen that often by the way and people who drive on the beach half the time don’t realize they are breaking the law) but do it within reason and with respect.
If a guy is driving on the beach with a permit, gets a fine, and 30 days later has to pay nearly $1,000 in fines, it will have one message, “We don’t want you in our town.”
And he’ll probably listen to that message, and that’s not a good thing for the government or the local businesses out here. Not to mention that he will most likely, just on pure principal, do everything possible to be difficult in resolving the fine by hiring a lawyer, in a deliberate attempt to waste the town’s time.
We should be looking to solve problems in local government, not nickel and diming everybody that visits us and ultimately turn them off to the area.