The Day I Became a Conservative

Lee DeCovnick
The oft-quoted phrase, "A conservative is a politically clueless country club Republican who got mugged" accurately describes my political conversion. Next week, I'm returning to the scene of my life-altering mugging. No, I'm not walking through the trash strewn alleys of San Francisco with twenty dollars bills spilling from my pockets, but visiting the permit counter of my local planning department.

Many years ago, we decided to upgrade the master bathroom with a new shower, sink, cabinets, exhaust fans, and lighting.  Since the new shower would have granite walls, we needed to upgrade the foundation to support the added weight.  After carefully reading the city's four-page brochure for new contractors, I applied for a construction permit, including a hand drawn set of plans using my kids' graph paper and a ruler.

At the walk-in counter, I handed the long forms and drawings to one of the inspectors on duty. He looked at all the papers, and informed me I had six months to complete the work, and to call 12 hours in advance for each of the five different inspections required to sign off the permit. He also said the permit would cost nine hundred and fifty dollars.  I wrote the check. He asked me to sit down on the office couch while he finished the paper work in his office in the back. Just another fifteen minutes.

As I sat, another guy walks up to the counter with a thick roll of blueprints while a different inspector emerged from the back office to help him. They were obviously well acquainted.  The contractor said he finally got the go ahead on a big job, adding two rooms and two baths to the existing house, plus a new swimming pool, spa and a poolside cabana.  The inspector said all the permits together would run four hundred dollars, and the contractor could pick them up tomorrow.

What the heck? Four hundred dollars? I watched as the contractor pulled four Franklins from his wallet and handed them over to his inspector. And the inspector wrote him a receipt for the cash.

Though livid with anger, I quietly explained to my inspector what I had heard transpire.

He just smiled at my Boy Scout outrage.  He told me I had three choices. One was to cancel the permit, but he promised that an inspector would stop by my house every year to make sure the bathroom had not been remodeled. And if the work were done illegally, it would be declared sub-standard and ordered removed along with the inspector finding a dozen other expensive safety violations. The second choice was to legally start the remodel, but the inspectors just might find enough faults after construction had begun to have the bathroom chopped up for a year. The last choice was to shut the hell up, and re-model the bathroom.

With the kids still in school, I shut the hell up.

Next week, I'm going to a City Hall to ask the counter inspector for a list of current permit fees. Then I'm coming back home to write some more articles for American Thinker. 

The oft-quoted phrase, "A conservative is a politically clueless country club Republican who got mugged" accurately describes my political conversion. Next week, I'm returning to the scene of my life-altering mugging. No, I'm not walking through the trash strewn alleys of San Francisco with twenty dollars bills spilling from my pockets, but visiting the permit counter of my local planning department.

Many years ago, we decided to upgrade the master bathroom with a new shower, sink, cabinets, exhaust fans, and lighting.  Since the new shower would have granite walls, we needed to upgrade the foundation to support the added weight.  After carefully reading the city's four-page brochure for new contractors, I applied for a construction permit, including a hand drawn set of plans using my kids' graph paper and a ruler.

At the walk-in counter, I handed the long forms and drawings to one of the inspectors on duty. He looked at all the papers, and informed me I had six months to complete the work, and to call 12 hours in advance for each of the five different inspections required to sign off the permit. He also said the permit would cost nine hundred and fifty dollars.  I wrote the check. He asked me to sit down on the office couch while he finished the paper work in his office in the back. Just another fifteen minutes.

As I sat, another guy walks up to the counter with a thick roll of blueprints while a different inspector emerged from the back office to help him. They were obviously well acquainted.  The contractor said he finally got the go ahead on a big job, adding two rooms and two baths to the existing house, plus a new swimming pool, spa and a poolside cabana.  The inspector said all the permits together would run four hundred dollars, and the contractor could pick them up tomorrow.

What the heck? Four hundred dollars? I watched as the contractor pulled four Franklins from his wallet and handed them over to his inspector. And the inspector wrote him a receipt for the cash.

Though livid with anger, I quietly explained to my inspector what I had heard transpire.

He just smiled at my Boy Scout outrage.  He told me I had three choices. One was to cancel the permit, but he promised that an inspector would stop by my house every year to make sure the bathroom had not been remodeled. And if the work were done illegally, it would be declared sub-standard and ordered removed along with the inspector finding a dozen other expensive safety violations. The second choice was to legally start the remodel, but the inspectors just might find enough faults after construction had begun to have the bathroom chopped up for a year. The last choice was to shut the hell up, and re-model the bathroom.

With the kids still in school, I shut the hell up.

Next week, I'm going to a City Hall to ask the counter inspector for a list of current permit fees. Then I'm coming back home to write some more articles for American Thinker.