The Martha Major Improvements Coming*

Friday, August 24, 2018
The old Cape Girardeau Police Department and Fire Station No. 1 at Independence and Frederick streets are shown in this undated photograph by G.D. Fronabarger.

*some strings attached

Cape Girardeau has announced a new program to zealously enforce old and new city ordinances to increase revenue for future construction projects.

Recently the city pursued charges against the carGO ride-sharing platform for delivering adult beverages without obtaining an alcohol license. Following a public outcry, the city council backed down. Since then, however, the city fathers have admitted they caved too readily.

"We really dropped the ball," said one city councilperson who wished to remain anonymous. "This was a golden opportunity to turn our municipal ordinances into profit centers, and we blew it. We're going to change course immediately."

The city hopes the aggressive pursuit of fees, fines, taxes, remittances, assessments, tolls, duties, royalties and other synonyms for "moolah" will produce enough of a windfall to allow completing several wish-list items.

Indoor aquatic center? It will be the biggest, most opulent water-based recreational complex between Los Angeles and New York.

Center Junction redesign? Forget about a diverging diamond. The city will contribute enough simoleons to build a spectacular five-level stack interchange visible from space.

Capaha Field improvements? Say hello to Capaha Coliseum with a Jumbotron large enough to cast a shadow to the Emerson Bridge.

In a news release, the city announced several changes to code enforcement to help make these dreams a reality. Here are some highlights:

1. Plastic ban: Cities on the West Coast are in a frenzy to criminalize plastic straws, but there's no money in that. Instead, Cape will require businesses that offer any disposable plastic products to pay for a Petroleum Product Possession Permit (PPPP).

2. Food delivery: All food delivered by a ride-sharing service must be transported in solid, non-plastic containers that are airtight, germ-proof, shock-absorbing and feature tamper-evident seals signed by a registered cook. These seals will be available from City Hall for a fee.

3. Signs and billboards: The existing sign ordinance will be strengthened under the city's new legal theory of "visibility negligence." For every motor vehicle accident, it will be presumed all visible signs in the vicinity were distractions that contributed to the accident, making the sign owners liable for damages. Insurers will be able to offer liability coverage for sign owners, but this will be heavily taxed.

4. Casino maritime requirements: Since the Isle Casino is technically a "riverboat" sitting in a moat, the city will start treating the gaming floor as a commercial vessel. Lifeboats must be provided, licensed riverboat pilots must be on duty at all times, and maritime safety briefings must be made available to all passenger-gamblers.

5. Agricultural rules: Any newspaper or other periodical produced using soy-based ink will be considered a farming operation, subject to a special-use permit or zoning variance to allow agricultural activities.

6. Parking regulations: An ordinance still on the books from Jan. 3, 1938, prohibits parking "in front of hotels, theaters and large office buildings." By stretching the definitions of "front" and "large," this

resurrected ordinance will give wide leeway to issue parking tickets in business areas. Another ordinance from July 5, 2005, bans parking along Water Street downtown. Just because angled parking spots have been provided doesn't mean they are legal to use.

7. Other ordinances: The city will start vigorously enforcing sections of the city code that have been largely overlooked, including 17-149 (no sauntering in public), 24-107 (mandatory snow removal from sidewalks), 26-374 (buses must enter and leave the city on Independence Street), 26-308 (pedestrians must use right half of crosswalks), and 31-34 (no skipping rocks on the Mississippi River).

With these policies in place -- and many more to come -- Cape Girardeau will soon become a world-class leader in civic improvement.