As Beaufort City Council grapples (yet again) with controversy involving horse-drawn carriage tours on its streets, city manager Scott Dadson poses a pertinent question: How much time and energy does council want city staff to spend policing carriage operations?
The correct response: As much as it takes. If a rule is worth imposing, it is worth enforcing.
Beaufort's two operators have a long history of bickering, even after the city increased the fees it charges them in an attempt to recoup the cost of playing referee. It is reasonable to pass that expense to the operators, but equally reasonable to expect the city to provide robust enforcement in return.
Of course, it has been suggested in the past that the city simply rid itself of all expense and obligation by disallowing carriage tours. That would be a mistake.
Locals might shudder at the thought of being spotted by a neighbor aboard a carriage or bristle when stuck behind one on a downtown street. Nonetheless, carriage rides are part of the experience tourists have come to expect, and so long as tourism is an important industry in Beaufort, so too are the carriages.
The most recent flap concerns assurances about the health of the horses. We are on record advocating that a third-party veterinarian conduct periodic checks of the animals, also at the operators' expense.
Other changes considered by City Council include:
Three of the proposed changes -- third-party vet checks, the horseshoe requirement and the additional daily tour -- would require two favorable council votes to change a municipal ordinance. Those votes will be scheduled after the city attorney writes the proposed changes, Dadson said.
Whether changes are adopted or the current rules remain in place, peaceable competition depends as much on the city's willingness to enforce rules as it does on the rules' verbiage. Laxity will bring more opportunities to hurl accusations. Strict monitoring, on the other hand, could reduce the number of disputes requiring council's attention.
The latter option is best for all -- operators, their horses, tourists and residents alike -- not to mention council members, who by now must be weary of these disputes.