Newspapers get letters to the editor every day from "plain people" pointing out problems with their government, expressing frustration and often suggesting solutions.
Its far less common for them to get a letter from a top government official doing the same thing. But Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik has done it.
Rutniks letter, which appears in the Open Forum section of The Source and has also been published elsewhere, makes the point that lack of respect for laws is a widespread problem in the community, but so is lack of enforcement of those laws.
"We are both victims and perpetrators," he writes. "No one is innocent." And if nothing is done to address the problem, he says, it "will certainly lead to the collapse of social order in our small community."
As examples of open and widespread lack of respect for laws, he cites gypsy taxis; unlicensed businesses that "have become the norm, most times not paying taxes or fees;" the sale of alcohol to minors at entertainment venues; prostitution; and the hiring of illegal immigrants who "pay no taxes, send most of their income back home, and create shantytowns that blight our neighborhoods."
Those are all areas of concern that fall at least in part under the purview of the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department. But Rutnik also cites drivers who routinely ignore traffic signals, willful littering in the face of a recently enacted $1,000 fine, drug addiction, harassment by street people, armed robberies, car thefts, assaults, rapes, spousal abuse and shootings — plus the recent refusal of Sen. Adelbert Bryan, whom he describes but does not name, to comply with a police order to pull his car off the road and get out.
To Rutnik, there is hope, and it lies in part with his department.
"The road back to the good life is paved with enforcement and respect," he says. "We must enforce our laws for them to work, we must train our enforcement people to be fair and consistent, and finally we must police ourselves by example."
Rutnik said the letter represents his views as both the LCA commissioner and a private citizen.
"Its hard not to blend the two together," he said. "I have been concentrating a lot on enforcement efforts in investigating everything from the gypsy taxies to houses of prostitution."
According to Rutnik, he didnt clear the letter with anyone else in government before sending it off to all of the territorys daily newspapers. The response hes had so far has been uniformly supportive, he said, adding, "Who could be against law and order?"
And to those who may take offense, he had this to say: "Expect more."