"Dear City Councilman: November 17, 2010
Having moved to San Antonio from Syracuse, New York in August, we were thrilled at the prospect of living in a warmer climate and enjoying more personal liberty. New York, as you are probably aware, isn’t known for broad individual freedoms. So far, San Antonio has lived up to our expectations. We are able to home school our children with little or no interference from the state; the friendly business climate has afforded us with numerous job opportunities; and there is no state income tax. We are enjoying these and many other liberties that make Texas a destination for like-minded folks.
As with most every other city, there is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to protecting and advancing individual liberty. One such area I feel needs addressing is the requirement for residents to obtain a permit for a garage sale. I must surmise that the limitation on the number of garage sales allowed is (or was) an attempt to prevent homeowners from establishing and operating an unlicensed business from their property. I don’t know the statistics, but I can imagine that the net effect of the “garage sale permit” is essentially a de facto ban on the practice.
The arguments against such a “ban” are plentiful and robust. I will point out just a few. First, garage sales should be a right protected by the state, not banned by it. Ownership in property ought to include the right to trade my personal effects with my neighbor, passerby, or across town stranger on my property at the time of my choosing. Property owners should not be required to “purchase” this right. Second, garage sales encourage recycling. If sellers want to trade used records of Rolling Stones and old Indiana Jones DVDs instead of junking them, a garage sale is the perfect market for “recycling” their goods. Third, a limit on garage sales disproportionately hurts the poor. Many families depend on a plentiful supply of cheap goods to dress and equip their families, provide toys for their youngsters, and outfit their homes with furniture. Now, they must choose alternative methods to find their necessities, often at a higher cost. Finally, the financial (and social) cost of this requirement must outweigh any benefits sought. I highly doubt that the fees generated by the permit requirement offset the administrative and enforcement costs required to effectively promulgate the program. I can think of many better tasks for enforcement officers to perform than issuing citations for weary homeowners simply wanting to clean out their garage.
I look forward to your response and welcome any action on your part to reconsider the limitations on residential garage sales in San Antonio.