Quiet, Please

It's noisy out there. And not just in the city. Helicopters, airplanes, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, boom boxes, trains, trucks - something, somewhere, is always making noise. Some people have referred to the phenomenon as the "quiet crisis."

It's not new, of course. A Monitor article told of New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia's decision, in the 1930s, to do battle against the loud sounds of the city, levying fines on urbanites for a variety of offenses. The experiment didn't last long, though. La Guardia went too far by suggesting that organ grinders be banned from the streets. New Yorkers protested that the grinders made a joyful sound. The city soon went back to being its noisy self.

This time, things might be different. Members of the New York City Council recently voted to double and triple the fines for repeated noise violations. A first-time fine for cranking up the volume on a radio, for example, would range from $90 to $350, according to The New York Times; third-time offenders should be prepared to shell out $270 to $1,050.

Steep, yes. But that's the point. Businesses - bars and nightclubs, for example - may have a hard time absorbing the higher fines and might, therefore, be more inclined to turn down the sound.

Some will cry foul, since certain loud noises can't easily be prevented. What if a car alarm goes off and the car's owner is nowhere to be found? For a first offense, $100 to $250. But if it happens again, $200 to $500.

The measure, perhaps, is too broad, as a few council members argued. Car alarms are a good example. But there are noises - honking horns, cranked up stereos - that can and should be controlled to some extent.

In this country, and in others, noise is one of the most persistent forms of pollution there is. Towns and cities like New York are right to try and get people to pipe down. Now, there's even a Web site (www.nonoise.org) devoted to the issue. Thankfully, such no-noise advocates are no longer willing to keep quiet.

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