This is a raid, little girl, so hand over your lemons

lemonade standReally, Tulare, California? Tell me you didn't just do that.

Eight-year-old Daniela Ernest wanted to raise money for a trip to Disneyland. So with the help of her parents, she set up a little fresh-squeezed lemonade stand at a busy intersection. It was a lovely little lesson about working hard for a goal. That is, while it lasted.

Unfortunately, a callous city code enforcement officer, Richard Garcia, decided he'd make it a lesson of his own about the cold, senseless reach of bureaucracy. While he was in the area tearing down signs someone had put up to sell their tetherball poles, he shut Ernest down for not having the proper permits. Thoughtfully, he helped her put her ice chest into her family's car.

I know cities are increasingly desperate for the income that permits bring in, but really, Tulare? You had to go after a third-grader engaging in one of the most time-honored coming-of-age traditions of the American suburbs?

Yes, little kids are technically in violation of health codes and business zoning. But there always seems to be a government official, a modern-day Javert, who in their zeal for justice honors the letter of a law instead of the spirit in which it was written. Like cops who whip out the Taser rather than use sense and psychology to calm down a suspect, there are a lot of civil servants who would rather smash stuff with the tools they're given than deal with situations on a human level.

And if lemonade stands are out, where should a greedy local government draw the line? Surely not bake sales, which these days provide our schools the crucial arts and extracurricular funding that the very same government has denied our students.

While the Ernest family shrugged it off, saying Garcia got "a bad rap," the vice mayor of the town was mortified. As politicians do, he proposed dealing with the issue not with the future application of common sense, but by encrusting the law books with yet more regulations: He suggested charging kids a nominal fee for the right to operate something like a lemonade stand.

Or, uh, you know, maybe waiving it.

Tulare may have to legislate sense into existence, but at least a local radio station had the wit to be the good neighbor the government found it impossible to be: It gave the Ernests free passes to Disneyland in exchange for 30 cups of lemonade.

I wonder if the government will make them claim them on their 2009 taxes.
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