Code enforcement fascism in St. GeorgeIn 1944, The New York Times asked Franklin Roosevelt to write a letter on the subject of fascism in America. And its relevance is as poignant now as it was then. Even locally, there may be an element of fascism in St. George.

Roosevelt said of fascists, “They pretend to be on the side of ordinary working people — paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare.”

He also noted that they “distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity.”

One of the mantras I often opine for is the notion that a good citizen thinks on a national level but acts on a local one. The idea being supported by the structure of our government and that municipalities for instance, are, for the most part, supposed to model the tenets of our national laws. And when they do not, something is amiss.

It is incumbent upon the people to see to it that the local elected and appointed individuals behave in concordance with the laws of the land and that state legislature does not exceed its authority.

This is prudent and makes since. After all, it is local leaders who become national ones.

The resemblances to fascist ideologies in our current administration not withstanding, there is a local issue here in St. George that deserves the scrupulous and vigilant attention of its citizens. The code enforcement division and its subsequent court proceedings continue to be unhinged and perhaps, well, unconstitutional.

What is interesting to note here is that unabashed outspokenness of members of the city government like Mayor Jon Pike engage in with regards to “overreaching” powers enacted by the federal government is a proverbial plank in the eye when it comes to their own overreaching powers.

Take the case of John Rowley, who sued the city in a code enforcement violation case. The city inexplicably and wrongfully trespassed on his property to obtain evidence to bring forth a civil citation.

What has ensued in this ongoing debacle is nothing short of rapacious and incredulous. The former judge of the code enforcement court has resigned and moved out of state, and the case itself has now been moved to the Washington County Justice Court. This was apparently done in response to the lawsuit calling them to account for their kangaroo court.

You see, prior to Rowley, almost no one stood up to the court. They appeared to receive their obligatory fines from a court where the prosecutor, cop, and judge all sat on the same bench and shared prosecutorial notes. Rowley noted the bias and demanded redress about not being rightfully allowed to have his case heard by an unbiased trier of fact.

It would appear at least that the city’s response to this citizen exercising his First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances was met with not an open ear but an aggressive, retaliatory regime. 

You see, instead of allowing for his constitutionally protected right of due process, admitting they made a mistake, and making him whole, the city decided to change the nature of his citation to a criminal matter.

Don’t like that we violated your rights? Too bad, we’re never wrong, and you can go to jail.

Rowley has since pleaded no contest to the once civil charge, which was enhanced after the fact to a criminal charge, but not because he thinks in any way he is guilty. It is because he has no faith that a fair and just proceeding will take place in the Washington County Justice Court either. Because, to whip the horse here a little, the Davenport case demonstrated in real time that the court is influenced by a heavy-handed city council, among other things.

Instead, he has decided to take it up in appeal in a higher court, a pattern that will likely be seen in a lot of litigations regarding entities in this city, no doubt. Davenport, for instance, is suing Dixie State University, and by association the city will be part of that suit in federal court in the hopes that a judge at that level will not be influenced.

Rowley’s case, however, brings to the forefront a glaring question about the proper role of local government. Should there be such an intrusive and all-encompassing code enforcement division in this city? Is it really, as they innocuously claim, about safety of citizens and abating liability to the city for what takes place on private property?

Or is it, as one caller to the Kate Dalley show pointed out, a resemblance to fascist governing when a city imposes such penalties on people pertaining to their private property?

And to highlight what the city thinks about its pattern of overreach, take what it said in a motion in the Rowley case:

“The defendant first argues that because the ordinances permit or allow specific uses or explain certain requirements then neither ordinance forbids anything. Logically, by listing what is allowed or required the ordinance is forbidding everything else. It would be impossible to write an ordinance that listed every disallowed use of a piece of property.”

As it pertains to your property, if it is not written in city ordinance that you can have it or do it, it is presumed not allowed.

Read that again and think about it. Because what that is, folks, plain and simple, is fascism. Not on the level of a world dictator, mind you, but just how much is acceptable to you?

See you out there.

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Dallas Hyland is a professional technical writer, freelance writer and journalist, award-winning photographer, and documentary filmmaker. As a senior writer and editor-at-large at The Independent, Hyland’s investigative journalism, opinion columns, and photo essays have ranged in topics from local political and environmental issues to drug trafficking in Utah. He has also worked the international front, covering issues such as human trafficking in Colombia. His photography and film work has received recognition as well as a few modest awards and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Based in southern Utah, he works tirelessly at his passion for getting after the truth and occasionally telling a good story. On his rare off-days, he can be found with his family and friends exploring the pristine outdoors of Utah and beyond.