By DEAN MEINERS, Guest Columnist
What does it take for you to print the truth (Tom West’s column, Dec. 12 edition)? The Supreme Court ruled in 1990 in favor of the Amish, but in 2001 the state Legislature passed a law requiring the use of slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs on all animal drawn vehicles in the state of Minnesota.
Our Todd County Sheriff does not have his hands tied; he is not enforcing current Minnesota law.
Our local state representative and our state senator researched the laws and provided them to us, and we carried them to the sheriff. He got upset and printed his “letter to the editor” telling the whole county he knows the law, and he knows the Amish do not have to use the slow moving vehicle signs.
We went back to our state representative and our state senator and asked them to verify what they had provided. With the help of the Attorney General’s Office, it was made clear that the court case in 1990 struck down the law at that time, but a new law was passed in 2001 that meets the requirements of the Supreme Court ruling. It requires the use of the sign, and it is still current and in effect.
We are concerned about the correctness of the information you published. We spent a lot of time working with our state representative and our state senator and their staff to get exact information on what the laws are for animal-drawn vehicles. What we have on the SMV issue has been researched, double checked and, if you will, audited to make sure it was accurate. Our county attorney has confirmed that SMV signs are, indeed, required by law.
Minnesota law also requires at least one light in front that illuminates at least 500 feet to the front and a red light to the rear that can be seen at least 500 feet to the rear in addition to an SMV sign if traveling at 30 mph or less on any public road. On some roads south of Long Prairie, many buggies a day go past and almost all of them have no lights at all and no SMV sign.
If they followed the law, everybody could see them, they could see us and things would be a lot safer on the roads.
The issue that everyone should focus on is a very simple one. All any of us want is for everyone to live by the same rules. Our sheriff’s department has done a grave dis-service to everyone by going out and asking the Amish if they would consider putting some lighting and maybe an SMV sign on their buggies. This and the current letter to the editor by our sheriff has given the Amish a
clear signal that they do not have to obey our laws. Instead of asking, our chief law enforcement officer should be informing them of what the laws are and informing them of the penalties for violation.
Another example is the horse crap on almost every road in Todd County . The litter laws include that anything that is foreign to the composition of the road is considered litter. Nobody can legislate when a horse will relieve itself, but if it is not picked up promptly and properly, it is considered litter.
Our current sheriff has asked the Amish if they would consider putting a bag on their horses. If they won’t put on the bag, then they should carry a shovel and a bag and stop and pick up their crap.
The truth is that many parade horses have bags on them. It doesn’t hurt the horse at all and most people who know horses will tell you a bag will not affect the horse in any way.
The theme that was presented to the Todd County commissioners was equality and a level playing field, including equal enforcement of the laws.
A community should be all people working and living in harmony which would include everybody living by the same laws. If we have to apply and pay for a building permit and obey the ordinances, then so should they.
If we have to pay for a retail license to sell to the public, the same should apply so that there would be fair competition and equal opportunity. Just what is so bad about equal and fair that the Amish do not want to cooperate or abide by the same laws? We know about their beliefs, and we do respect them.
Having said that, nobody is asking for special treatment, everybody we know just wants equal treatment. All of us would like to know we are safe on the roads and being safe requires that we can see who else is on the road.
Tom West made it sound like the non-Amish people are making it tough for the Amish when in reality, if they obeyed the same laws we have to, we could then, actually call this a community.
Dean Meiners is a resident of rural Clarissa.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to a production error, an unedited version of Tom West’s column appeared in last week’s edition of the Peach. Dean Meiners’ name was incorrect in that column, and West and the Peach apologize to Mr. Meiners for that error. Other readers who would like to weigh in on this subject, or any other, are welcome to do so. Letters have a 200-word limit.)