Cocoa Beach: Be “Reasonable.”

Man Arrested For Not Wearing Sunscreen

COCOA BEACH – A man was arrested today in Cocoa Beach for failing to wear sunscreen. The man, who is not being identified, was told by Cocoa Beach Rangers that he needed to wear sunscreen as a failure to do so would likely cause sunburn and skin damage.

“We have a legal responsibility to keep the public safe and healthy when visiting our beaches,” a City official said. “When the Beach Rangers made a reasonable request to the man to put on sunscreen, he refused. We were forced by his non-compliance to remove the man from the beach and ban him from returning to the beach for two years.”

Luckily, that story hasn’t happened – yet.

But it could.

Tonight the City Commission of the City of Cocoa Beach will meet at 7:00 PM to discuss a variety of issues, including Ordinance 1605, which expands the authority of the Beach Rangers and other City employees to require people to follow what is described as “reasonable” commands from designated City employees.

The term “reasonable” is at best fungible. What is “reasonable” to you may not be reasonable to us. We are unaware of any law or legal basis that requires a person to respond to a “reasonable” request. The standard is not “reasonable,” the standard is “legal.” What matters is whether the order given by a government official is legal – not whether he or she believes it is “reasonable.”

We all know and realize that a government official may act on a “reasonable suspicion,” but after that, their orders must be based on the law and such pesky things as the Constitution.

How does “reasonable” standard play out in the fake scenario we wrote above?

According to the City, one of the criteria for a “reasonable command”

To refrain from engaging in any activity or to act in any way which is likely to cause endangerment to himself or others.

Certainly sunburn and the potential of skin damage is “endangerment” so it appears to us that the Beach Rangers could demand that someone wear sunscreen at the threat of being arrested and removed from the beach.

We know you are reading this and saying, “no one would ever do that,” and you’d probably be right. You, like us, are basing that belief upon the idea that requiring sunscreen would be “unreasonable.”

The problem is that we aren’t the judge of what is “reasonable.” The City and its employees are.

From the ordinance:

A reasonable command shall include, but not be limited to, the following commands:

What is “reasonable” is defined in the ordinance as being rather open ended.

We understand what the City is trying to do. They are trying to expand the number of people and the authority of those people to police certain parts of the City, including the beach. As is always the case, what the City wants should fit within the laws of the land. The standard of “reasonable command” does not. There is no bright line that designates what is “reasonable” and what is not. The City should send this ordinance back to fix the language.

Sending back that ordinance leads to another item – the City is putting out an schedule for hiring legal services.

If there is anything that shows the inefficiency and disconnect from the real world, it is this item. The City will be taking 3 months – a quarter of a year – to either hire new attorneys or retain the firm they now employ. Think about that for a moment. Think about how you or the company for which you work hires attorneys and how long it takes to hire new legal representation. It is a lot less than 3 months, that’s for sure.

Finally, the robot that we keep on our desk started shouting “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!” when we saw this on the agenda:

Discuss and approve methodology for creating a Charter Review Committee.
Commission Representative: Mayor Ben Malik

A Charter Review Committee is not a bad thing in and of itself. As Charters are regularly amended and changed by ballot initiatives, it is always a good idea to make sure the changes are consistent within the Charter itself.

However, it should be remembered that three of the members of the City Commission voted against the plain reading of the Charter when it came to height and density within the City. The newest member has said she supports changing the height and density requirements as well.

Furthermore, Mayor Malik has stated that the height and density issue will be back on the ballot in 2018. We wonder if the Committee will be stacked with people who will seek to have the Charter read as the Gang of Four wants it to read as opposed to the way the citizens voted.

Given the history of this issue, and the way it was handled at different boards and at the Commission level, the Charter Review Committee and its makeup needs to be watched.

The Commission meeting starts at 7:00 PM and can be viewed on the City’s website as well as Spectrum channel 497.

Hope to see you there!

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