One of the more creative arguments offered by apologists for the Board of Supervisors’ abrupt termination last month of the volunteer illegal-sign cleanup program was offered the other day by the editor of the Loudoun Times-Mirror (motto: One of the World’s Newspapers): he suggested that “for most of us, illegal signs in the VDOT right of way seem like just another nuisance with those signs being illegal in the same sense that driving 60 mph in a 55 mph zone” is illegal.
“It is just this type of law,” Ye Ed continued, “that makes criminals of us all. And knowing that such a minor act is illegal (and that everyone does it) begins to insidiously degrade our respect for the law in general.”
Yes indeed, who among us can honestly say that in a moment of inattention he hasn’t stopped by the side of the road, climbed out of his car, and placed an “Open House” sign for Beazer Homes on the median strip before he even realized what he was doing? It could happen to anyone.
Actually, it was interesting that Ye Ed made that analogy to speeding. Because as it happens, our very own proud new Loudoun supervisor Ken “Ken” Reid (R-Leesburg) has been taking that reasoning very much to heart on a personal basis in recent years.
“Ken” was one of the more outspoken denouncers of the “vigilantes” who have been running rampant, wantonly cleaning up the county under the volunteer sign removal program. (Reid offered his own creative reasoning for killing the program—namely that picking up those signs was adding a crushing burden to the stream of toxic waste entering our landfill, a problem apparently known only to “Ken.”)
During the campaign “Ken” told the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, “Transportation is my No. 1 area of expertise.”
That was not an idle boast: he has the record to prove it. And you can find that record on the court dockets of Fairfax and Loudoun District Courts. It turns out that Reid indeed offers a perfect illustration of the esteemed editor’s wise caution that laws against speeding, like the law against illegal signs, only “insidiously degrade our respect for the law in general”:
• On April 29, 2005, Reid received a summons for traveling 80 mph through our fair county, for which he paid a fine and court costs of $81.
• On July 30, 2007, Reid received a summons in Fairfax for failure to obey a highway sign, for which he paid $92 in fines and court costs.
• No doubt as a direct consequence of having his respect for the law insidiously degraded by these experiences, on April 23, 2008, he once again was apprehended exceeding the speed limit, this time traveling 51 mph in a 35 zone, for which he was assessed $56 in court costs only—his fine having been mercifully waived by the benevolent wisdom of the Republican-run Loudoun commonwealth’s attorney office, which had by this time come to recognize the terrible danger they were running of sowing disrespect for the law by enforcing it against an elected Republican member of the Leesburg Town Council.
• Yet, tragically, even that act of clemency apparently did not restore Reid’s still-insidiously degrading respect for the law; for a scant six months later, on November 18, 2008, Reid was charged with reckless driving for traveling 55 mph in a 35 zone and driving with an expired license. Again, the Loudoun commonwealth’s attorney, tempering justice with mercy for a fellow hard-working Republican, nolle pros’ed the expired-license charge and decided that Reid must have been going 1 mph less, enabling him to cop to 54/35 with the 20-mph-over-limit reckless driving charge dropped; for which he paid $156 in fines and court costs.
• On July 5, 2010, Reid was again charged with failure to obey a highway sign in Loudoun ($91 in fines and court costs paid).
• On August 10, 2011, Reid was yet again charged with failure to obey a highway sign (yet another $91).
A lesson in what happens when you try to enforce such “nuisance” laws “that make criminals of us all.”