By Cory D. Carpenter
June 4, 2013
Imagine if you could not purchase the new iPhone or the next year’s car because your town’s laws or codes are so restrictive they need to be re-written in order to allow you to purchase and make use of them. Now, hold that scowl on your brow, and we will address this type of scenario again further on.
If the Gilbert Town Council passes the next set of International Code Council (ICC) construction codes, you could be hearing the following phrases a lot more: You are in violation. That is unacceptable. You can’t do that. You are forbidden.
It’s Against the Law!
You are forbidden to purchase a commercial oven. You are forbidden to use your choice of light bulb in any of your fixtures (except a lamp or two). You are forbidden to have an outlet from Home Depot that is not tamper-proof. You are even forbidden from wrapping two layers of insulation around your home at the same time. At any moment you could be in violation of a new Gilbert law and in jeopardy of losing your rights. Don’t worry, though, because it is all for your own sake and good—at least that is what some out-of-state special interest group members are telling your Town Council members in order to encourage them to pass the International Code Council construction codes on the Town; codes which forbid Gilbert residents some very basic freedoms and choices.
One Size Fits All
Most of us don’t think that international organizations would be involved at a personal level in binding our Town under a bundle of non-local codes. What is worse is that some of our elected council members might buy into these restricting codes if they do not hear from you. (In fact the Gilbert Town Council has passed the ICC codes on the citizens in the past). But why would people from international organizations take a personal interest in Gilbert? A few Gilbert residents have raised the red flag on these intrusions on our choices and liberties, something that these organizations rarely have to deal with, and now these international bodies are being forced to pay attention.
Most towns and cities just pass these books of code as law onto their populace as if they were going out of style. In fact nearly every town and city in the state passes these codes every few years, and they get worse and more restrictive every time. It is time to buck the standard of passing off our liberty like a used cigarette.
We Have to Pass it Before we Know What’s in it
I personally would not sign a contract on a new home without having read that contract which legally binds me to its terms. I am under the impression that the town council members have this same attitude in regards to signing contracts that legally bind them as well. Yet by passing these international codes without reading and understanding them and their purpose, the council binds all Gilbert citizens into a contract of which neither the citizens, nor the council they elected, understand the terms. This to me would seem to be an improper use of the responsibilities entrusted to our elected officials.
Does the Council apply the Principles learned during Constitution Week USA?
This wonderful Town of Gilbert Arizona hosts the largest Constitution celebration in the entire nation, and your Town Council holds it up as a token of the Town’s principles and undoubtedly as a proud label for themselves as council members. Unfortunately, for some members on the council, this means very little in practice. Some council members lose courage when town management tells them that we need to pass these codes for the sake of the citizens. Others shrink when a Mr. So-and-So emails them from out-of-state telling them to help the Town’s poor citizens out because they apparently don’t know enough to help themselves.
One person, stating his name as “Jim” emailed the town council on June 3, 2013 in order to “correct” the misunderstanding that the Town might be getting from their constituents about the International Code Council (ICC). He states in part:
"The International Code Council is a[n] American non-profit organization.
"If you were to open a copy of the energy code, the IECC, you would see a diagram of the U.S., not Europe or South America, but of the U.S. This is an American code developed by government officials [who] could have also included your building official and inspectors…
"The reason the city did not adopt the 2009 version of the code is because the home builders and the state legislature put a law in place four years ago that did not allow municipalities to adopt any newer building code during the Great (sic) Depression."
Jim argues that though light bulbs are restricted to compact fluorescent, LED, and incandescent, you can still use the bulbs you want to use in “lamps, desk lighting, piano lights, and so many more personal lighting devices."
Jim is probably not aware, but we citizens can count. One resident, Nielsen R., reviewed the number of lamps that he had in his home versus permanent lighting such as lights in the ceiling. The ratio is 3 to 83. That means that these codes give us 3.6 percent freedom in what light bulbs we put in our homes. It follows that these codes restrict our freedom by 96.4 percent in this aspect!
Jim also adds:
"Lastly how many items, products, services, processes [are] the city council experts on? I would guess very few because you allow for the experts of the city staff to do the research and provide you with the details. There is no way you as a council, or a CEO of a company, could know everything about everything… You rely on your building official and his or her staff to do the research and provide you with valid and relevant research. I believe your building official has done this and provided you with an important suggestion to upgrade to the 2012 I-Codes.
"I want to thank you for your time to read this response in support of your building department and future homeowners in Gilbert who will have more durable and energy efficient homes because of these codes."
Who Do Council Members Represent?
I would like to ask Jim what he thinks we elect council members for. Are they simply elected to vote how town management tells them to? Town management is not elected and therefore does not answer to the citizens of Gilbert. Our council members are elected to represent their constituents and they are to answer to their constituents not to town management.
Before the revolutionary war began there was a sore issue for the colonists of taxation without representation. This was because the colonists did not have any elected members in Parliament, and Parliament had implemented a large tax on tea. This tax was levied without any say from the colonists. Similarly, the International Code Council has conjured up a more than 1000 page book of codes that is to be passed on us without any say or representation. The only difference is that we have a voice and a say on whether they are passed at all via the town council.
To add insult to injury the Town has been contacted personally by William D. Fay, the Executive Director of Energy Efficient Codes Coalition. Mr. Fay is located, not in Gilbert, but in Washington, DC—you know, the place where they can’t get things right. Fay writes:
"…If you reject the 2012 IECC, homebuyers will simply pay much more in energy bills.
"The new home will be more comfortable because of the efficiency improvements, and data shows that it will have a higher resale value."
In other words, these codes are for the sake of your constituents. I wonder why Mr. Fay would take such a personal interest in Gilbert. What is the real reason he wants these codes to be passed by Town Council? I struggle to accept that he cares that deeply about Gilbert and how comfortable they are in their homes.
Why is Gilbert Town Management Pushing so Hard for these Codes?
Gordon R., another concerned Gilbert citizen, wrote to town management asking why they would be pushing for the adoption of international construction codes. Kyle Mieras, the Interim Development Services Director, responded with a list of reasons:
"This list is not exhaustive, but gives you an idea of the importance/reasoning.
- To be on same code cycle as the rest of Valley
- ISO ratings
- Fire Department accreditation
- To take advantage of new products/technology not recognized in current code
- To make buildings safer through the use of new products/technology
- To allow designers/contractors to take advantage of new prescriptive methods of building designs vs. requiring engineering."
The first reason that Mieras provides for adopting these international codes is to fall in line with the rest of the cities and towns around the state. The problem is that many of the towns and cities that we are trying to emulate are going bankrupt.
ISO Ratings not about "energy efficient" codes.
The second reason provided is ISO ratings. The ISO or Insurance Services Office is a rating agency that was once widely used by insurance companies to determine the insurability of a given entity, individual, or property. However, long-time resident, Gordon has debunked the myth that the town’s or residents’ ratings would suffer if the ICC codes are not adopted.
Many insurance companies do not even use ISO to determine rates, including companies such as State Farm and Western Mutual Insurance Group. The codes that are important to insurance ratings are life and safety codes (which Gilbert could create and adopt locally). Gordon R. called the ISO directly and spoke to the Customer Service, Public Protection, and Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule departments. The first department had not even heard of the ICC codes. The second department had heard of the codes but said that the codes had no bearing on a town’s rating. And the last department said that the rating only applies to Town buildings and even then it only really looks at the natural catastrophic disasters such as floods, earthquakes and tornadoes, none of which is very common in Gilbert.
Why Are Perfectly Good Products Outlawed with every new Code Update?
The last several reasons given by Mr. Mieras, in large part, have to do with taking advantage of new products and technology. That is how restrictive these codes are! They have to be re-written and re-adopted every two to four years because the codes do not recognize the new products and technology! Freedom would have allowed us to take advantage of new technology naturally. Once again, imagine if you could not purchase the new iPhone or the next year’s car model because your town’s code is so restrictive it needs to be re-written in order to allow you to purchase and make use of them!
"Selling points" of New Products Should Not be the Reason to Make those Products Law!
Currently, the cost of permits and fees, in order to be able to pay for and enforce all of these codes, before ever breaking ground is as large as $25,000! It does not have to be this way. If we as citizens of Gilbert think that we are smart enough to pick out the light bulbs and the outlets that we want in our homes, then it is time to email the Town Council at CouncilMembers@gilbertaz.gov and tell them that we want Gilbert to stop being hypocritical about celebrating freedom through Constitution Week and ask them to reject these international codes and replace them with local codes limited to health and life safety of Gilbert and specifically designed by Gilbert and for Gilbert. Gilbert should lead the way in the state and the nation as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We can lead the way in Gilbert when it comes to our freedoms!