Friday, June 02, 2006

To form a more perfect neighborhood

The Vol-in-Law has been working on a constitution for a community crime reduction panel. It's kind of like a jumped-up neighbourhood watch. It's supposed to advise the local unit of the Metropolitan Police about neighborhood priorities and conduct "visual audits" (i.e. walking around, being nosy and spotting eyesores and potential troublespots).

It hasn't done, as far as I can see, a lot of visual auditing or advising. This is mostly because the panel has been spending a large part of the last year drafting a constitution. In my view, they should have spent almost zip time on this - a constitution should have been provided for them and they could tinker around the edges, discuss it for 45 minutes and ratify the sucker. But no - in their wisdom, the Home Office squivel servants have asked panels to come up with their own constitution, thus creating a nice space for largely unqualified locals to squabble and waffle and do absolutely nothing and thus cause the police little actual trouble by holding them to account for neighborhood needs and wants.

Of course, the Vol-in-Law is a lawyer, and after his first attendance at the panel, he has drafted a constitution. And I advised him (being something of an authority on public sector governance matters, if I do say so myself). He's quite proud of it - and asked me last night if he should add a preamble. Let's not overstuff the pillow, I think - but we get on the Internets and Google the preamble to the US Constitution. The Founding Fathers, after all, were clever chaps with a nice turn of phrase.

And in our research we discovered a bit of constitutional construction I was completely unaware of.

In 1789, an amendment was proposed:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Now that's a good one - I think. I'm not sure why it needs a Constitutional amendment, but it makes sense. It just means that if you vote for your own pay raise, you can't get it until after the next election. So you just might be voting for more money for your opponent, and hopefully this means our reps will be a little more hesitant to vote for raises.

As any constitutional scholar will know, amendments have to ratified by X percent of the states (see I'm not a constitutional scholar). And this one duly was - exactly 203 years after its introduction. Two hundred and three years. Yep. You can look it up - the 27th amendment.

Taking a year to draft the neighbourhood panel's constitution simply pales in comparison.

We the People of the Tooting, in Order to form a more perfect Neighbourhood, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Safer Neighbourhoods Panel.

And for my British readers, as Citizen Smith would say, Freedom for Tooting!


Anonymous said...

Wow, the world is a lot safer now. Do you think you could transfer the technology to neighborhoods all over the world. Just think what safety such constitutions would bring to Iraq. E-mail Rummey right away.

"John Galt" said...

With Justice and a Pint For All!!