Wu: A new chapter of library rules

The summer doldrums seem to be influencing the Newport Beach City Council, which is increasingly involving itself in residents' lives.

First, the city decided to apply a 10% tax on the value of donations made to the city.

Then there's the proposed business-killing 20% tax on gross income for commercial marina owners.

Now, they are giving library staff members a list of additional violations for which they can remove library patrons. This will give library staff more reasons to kick patrons out of a public building.

I am fully aware that laws are made by government to protect citizens and are supposed to be written for the common man and woman to understand.

Smoking on the beach is against the law, so if a 20-year-old lifeguard decides to come down from his or her tower and cite me for smoking my cigar on the beach, then I'll pay the fine for breaking the law.

Easy, objective and black and white.

But the Newport Beach Library rules? Subjective as subjective can be.

Locking bicycles in bike racks only? Seems simple. Apparently even City Manager Dave Kiff, a triathlete who uses his bike to get around, sometimes brought his bike inside the library.

"I take the Fifth," Kiff quipped during the last meeting, where council members decided to tighten up rules about where visitors could lock their bikes. It's bike racks only, from now on.

The City Council added new restrictions to the library policies this week, exposing how arbitrary some of the rules are. They added the bike lock regulations because people were parking shopping carts and bikes laden with bags and goods near the library entrance, and they also banned extended lounging (sleeping in the library was already against the rules).

These new rules are additions to bans on abusive language, extreme odors, hygiene problems and making too much noise.

A few of those rules are pretty straightforward. Illegal activity is against the rules, and the library staffer can probably recognize whether something is illegal or not.

But a lack of personal hygiene or use of perfume that produces odors that interfere with other customer's use of library facilities?

Really? Do library personnel have an odor level meter (similar to a noise meter) that determines when a smell creates interference?

As a youth, after surfing for six hours, shoving down a double chili cheeseburger and fries from Jose McCoy's, then riding my bicycle from the Huntington Beach Pier to the Huntington Beach Central Library to study with my friends, do you think the odors emitting from my sweaty, salty, "onion-y" long hair would create some sort of interference?

How about the odors coming from my leaky duffel bag, which contained my moldy beach towel and wetsuit, soaking with my rusted bicycle tools in the ocean water collecting at the bottom?

And what if I didn't finish all of my greasy burger and a girl (who happened to be wearing lots of perfume to impress the sweaty, salty, moldy surfer kid sitting in front of her) wanted to eat what was left?

According to the subjective nature of the library rules would it be OK if I was ordered to leave the public library?

Since when did library staff become the smell police?

Nevermind what will happen to me if I'm caught "lying down on the furniture or propping feet on chairs, sofas or tables," while attempting to read Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

Perhaps, to prevent selective enforcement of these very subjective rules, the City Council should create charts of the subjective odorous limits.

Sweaty, salty, moldy long haired surfers — bad. Pretty girls wearing a bit too much Chanel No. 5 from Neiman Marcus —good.

Gotta love these summer doldrums.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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