John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, BART tries to get public poopers to keep it in their pants, and Penn State fights against a boozy "State Patty's" tradition.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (past editions here):
BEING AN AWFUL PERSON ON PUBLIC TRANSIT, IN CALIFORNIA
The foul plague blankets that are the cloth seat covers on BART trains are set to get a little cleaner – theoretically! The transit agency is getting ready to enforce a state bill outlawing the really bad actors on the system, such as people that poop on seats, fall asleep with their pants down, hold club-style house parties throughout the entire car, or basically engage in any of the other terrible behaviors featured on the impressive BART Idiot Hall of Fame. (Carrying giant logs may fall into a legal gray zone.)
However, this being all-forgiving San Francisco, people who use BART as a public toilet could get several chances to do so before being banned for 30 days to a year. Reports SF Weekly's The Snitch:
There's some wiggle room to still be kinda bad and ride BART; for smaller infractions such as defacing property or pooping on the escalator, you'll have to accrue three citations within a period of 90 days before you're actually banned from the transit agency, according to BART. Now if you have a natural proclivity for more serious crimes such as shooting, knifing, or beating other passengers and/or employees, it'll only take one time for you to get slapped with a BART ban.
DRONES, IN VIRGINIA
Charlottesville's always been a quirky little place, so it is no surprise it's making headlines as the first American city to outlaw unmanned aerial vehicles. On Monday, the city council laid down a two-year ban on drones and forbid the municipal government from buying any of the devices. Eat your heart out, Pakistan.
The council took up the drone issue at the behest of the Rutherford Institute, a local organization that's been described as a "more conservative American Civil Liberties Union." The institute argued that the flying robots (of which Virginia's Russell County has two) violate the Fourth Amendment's provisions against unreasonable searches. But if you think the anti-drone folks are only concerned about surveillance, think again. This is an excerpt from Rutherford's press release celebrating its legislative victory:
The passage of the resolution, which also places a two-year moratorium on the use of drones within city limits, coincides with a Department of Justice memo leaked to the media which outlines the Obama administration’s rationale for assassinating U.S. citizens via drone strike. With at least 30,000 drones expected to occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, has called on government officials at the local, state, and federal level to do their part to safeguard Americans against the use of drones by police.
"It’s our hope that the rest of the country will follow Charlottesville’s lead in establishing clear limits on the use of drone technology, especially by law enforcement agencies," said Whitehead. "The Obama administration’s unapologetic rationale for using drones to kill U.S. citizens sends a clear and urgent message about the need to limit the government’s use of these devices domestically. We cannot afford to be lulled into a sense of complacency by legislation placing temporary moratoriums on drones. As with other weapons of war which have become routine weapons of compliance domestically, such as tasers and sound cannons, once drones are unleashed on the American people, there will be no limiting their use by government agencies."
STATE PATTY'S DAY, IN PENNSYLVANIA
Tip a forty of green-colored beer onto the curb: There will be no officially sanctioned State Patty's Day at Penn State this year. Before any readers of Irish descent get irate, scan that again: "State Patty's Day." This debauched occasion is a completely made-up "holiday" in University Park, Pennsylvania, started by students in 2007 because the real Saint Paddy's day fell during Spring Break and they wouldn't be around to get lit up like an atom bomb.
In the past few years, State Patty's has swelled into a weekend-long blowout of chugging, fighting, smashing and peeing, with the State College Police Department making more than 200 arrests during each celebration in 2011 and 2012. Students have blamed the carnage on unsavory out-of-towners, but that didn't stop the Interfraternity Council from placing a ban on all Patty parties and socials during the last week of February. The move appears to be part of the school's attempt to rehab its tarnished public image. As university blog Onward State put it before last year's Patty's Day: "Like it or not, the Sandusky Scandal thrust Happy Valley into the national spotlight, and while it has faded some in the months that have passed since the media frenzy, we are still under close watch."
It's uncertain how much of an effect this ban will have outside of frat houses. A ton of the partying goes down in private apartments, so locals should probably brace for more "long pours":
As well as sights like this: