Tuesday, October 31, 2006
A vehicle is damaged and abandoned, leaking oil and creating a traffic hazard. Does the government respond, by removing the vehicle and charging the owner?
Not necessarily, if the vehicle is a boat. Here in Florida, home to more than a million registered boats, law encourages people to leave their boats anchored in harbors without cost (marina fees are costly and often have wait-lists), according to the St. Petersburg Times. When boats are damaged, many owners simply let them rot, causing navigation hazards, and sending fuel and paint into the water. According to some, Florida’s governmental authorities haven’t given priority to enforcement of derelict boat laws.
One way to get governments to pay better attention to public land (or water) use hazards and nuisances is to make it monetarily worthwhile. Like the small-town cop that fills town coffers by stopping out-of-town auto speeders, governments should make boaters pay for their improper water usage. Charge more for boat registration (and use the money for enforcement), require that boats have readily accessible identification tags that are difficult to remove, send out notices promptly to owners of derelict boats (Florida gained hundreds of these after the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005), impose heavy fines on owners who don’t remove their boats quickly, and encourage local enforcement by allocating some of the funds to the local government.
Imposing hefty fees on those who cause harm to public land (or water) is the best way to encourage civic-minded land and water usage.