By no means must we ever allow dire emergency and immediate public need to trump bureaucratic regulation. Why, that would be anarchy!
We relate, today, a tale of winter horror out of New Jersey. The story is here: http://cbsloc.al/1dI58Rt.
New Jersey is running low on road salt. That's not particularly news, given the harshness of the winter.
State officials there and everywhere that winter has clouted in the last couple months are trying to figure out how to keep everyone and everything moving.
There is no alternative. Hibernation is not an option — though it's sounded better and better as storm after storm progresses through the region.
So, New Jersey's salt stores are dwindling. Jersey City, according to the story, has about 500 tons of the material remaining in stock. One sizable storm, according to a city official, uses up about 800 tons of salt. Math that even we can handle shows that the city doesn't have enough for one more solid hit.
Officials can cross their fingers and hope spring arrives before another Nor'easter, or they can attempt to restock. Restocking might be the more prudent course, considering that gridlock would be the certain outcome if the city's wishing didn't make it so regarding the absence of future storms.
Even before last week's storm, the state had run through 370,000 tons of salt, compared to 258,000 for the entire previous cold season.
How bad is it there? New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson says the salt shortage could force him to close major roadways during storms if a solution isn't reached.
We wonder how Atlantic City's casinos feel about that little bit of news.
Now, about that bureaucracy we lamented at the start.
Sitting somewhere hard by the New Jersey coast is a ship that contains 40,000 tons of salt. It might not solve all of the Garden State's dilemmas, but it certainly would go a long way toward getting it through the rest of winter with enough material at least to keep roads open.
The ship is near the coast; not in port. And the reason — the sole reason — it's not in port is that it is not flying an American flag.
Yes, that pesky lack of a Stars and Stripes means that New Jersey residents may have to deal with a pesky lack of open roads. If this makes absolutely no sense, you are not alone in this assessment.
The bureaucratic knot dates to a 1920 maritime law that requires all ships to fly an American flag. Ships can obtain a waiver to reach port, but that hasn't happened yet for this particular load.
“I'm deeply troubled that there hasn't been a waiver,” said New Jersey Assemblyman Jon Bramnick in the story we cited.
We're deeply troubled that a certain public need — road salt amidst a hard winter — isn't being met because someone forgot to cross a “T.”
We're not sure we'd be lounging around waiting for government to lurch forward and act on the waiver. Would a helicopter delivery of an American flag be enough to fulfill the spirit, if not the letter of the law?
Just drop down an Old Glory to the bos'n, let him run it up a convenient flagpole and then make turns for the nearest port.
Winter weather is difficult enough without layers of government nonsense atop the piles.