March 9, 2012
Today I did something I usually never do. I read the squawkies.
And, today, amid the typical obtuse references to the president and normal political misinformation, were littered a plethora of downright rude comments about a local code enforcement officer.
Granted this code enforcement officer, Ruth Lewis, has found herself in the middle of an in issue that never should have become one.
She's the unfortunate code enforcement officer who was assigned a complaint that came through the city's 3-1-1 system of an "improper portable sign" at 2401 Dawson Road. Upon arrival, Lewis saw what she thought was the impetus for the call: a flag pole place smack-dab in the middle of a city-owned right-of-way in front of Gieryic's Service Station.
What Lewis failed to see was what was the real reason for the complaint, an immobile, dilapidated portable sign located behind a restaurant in the Village Green Shopping Plaza just adjacent to Gieryic's station.
What happens next is a matter of conjecture, but according to Tom Gieryic, Lewis, in a less-than-polite way, told him to remove the flag or face getting a citation.
Since that point, people have turned what was supposed to be a local sign ordinance issue that ended up being a violation of state encroachment laws, as justification for defaming a sworn peace officer.
"Mr. Gieryic, thank you for flying our American Flag. Fire Ruth Lewis."
"Ruth Lewis sounds like nothing more than someone who loves having power in her hands. She needs to have her little ticket book removed and all power to write citations taken from her."
"Officer Lewis needs to be sent back to school to learn the difference between a sign and a symbol."
"I see that Code Enforcement is now hiring illegal aliens as officers. Who else would think that the American flag is a sign? It is a symbol of our great country. Perhaps the code inspector should serve a tour of duty an gain a real perspective for the flag of my country."
At worst, Lewis did two things wrong in this situation. 1. Failed to see the "true" dilapidated sign at the Village Green Shopping Center that was reported. 2. Was allegedly rude with Gieryic when she confronted him about the flag being posted in the city right-of-way.
While grounds for a reprimand, these things hardly make Lewis an "illegal alien." In fact, she, along with all of the other public safety officials in this country put on a uniform everyday to serve and protect. She serves warrants. She goes into vacant, dilapidated homes often occupied only by vagrants and/or drug users.
And yet, just because she's enforcing a law she had no role in creating or crafting, she's now the enemy.
She must be unpatriotic. It's not like she works for a city manager who wore the Marine Corps Uniform for decades, retiring as a full bird Colonel. And it's not like her direct supervisor, Code Enforcement DIrector Mike Tilson, retired from the United States Army as a major after years in service to his country.
But rather than take a common-sense look at an issue, as soon it involves something as sacred as the American Flag, people replace their intelligence with an unyielding and misguided zeal.
What good is having a flag that stands for Democracy, a unified republic and the tenets of the U.S. Constitution if we abandoned the law of which it stands?
Frankly, if you have a problem with the fact that someone can't fly a flag in the right of way, call Nathan Deal, David Ralston or Casey Cagle. It was the General Assembly that adopted the encroachment laws in the first place.
I'm thankful for people like Ruth Lewis who, despite the fact they know the sign ordinance is a hot-button issue, do their duty regardless and enforce it. After all, just disagreeing with a law doesn't give an officer license not to enforce it.