The rules are well intended, meant to make sure the public is safe, but rule makers forget that rules have unintended consequences.
"They've set up a situation where you have to have a $40,000 kitchen to feed someone who's going to get their food from questionable sources at best," said Fender.
"Looking at these rules, I'm overwhelmed," I told Chairman Connolly. "It just goes on and on for hundreds of pages… Do you ever think government has too many rules?"
"Absolutely," he said. "I think sometimes the rules overpower common sense."
"What if the health department had been around when Jesus was feeding the poor?"
"He might have been, you know, cited," Connolly said with a laugh.
Chairman Connolly quickly exempted the churches from the regulations.
I'm glad the churches feeding the poor squeaked past the food police this time, but bureaucratic rules kill all kinds of good things, always in the name of making things better.
In Santa Barbara, Calif., pedi-cabs -- small carriages pulled by a man on a bicycle -- used to take people around and often kept people out of cars late at night after they'd been drinking. But they no longer offer free rides, because new safety regulations drove them out of business.
In North Carolina, a couple of grannies were sewing quilts at home and then selling them… without a license. The government put a stop to this brazen criminality. The grannies are now out of business.
And just this week, the food police in my hometown decided to protect us from trans-fats, so they banned them from every restaurant. The New York Times called it, "a model for other cities."
George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux saw that and said, "A model for what, exactly? For petty tyranny? What other voluntary activities will they ban? Clerking in convenience stores? Walking in the rain?"
"Bureaucracies don't understand exactly what's going on," said Chesson. "We don't want to have to break the law, OK?"
It's nice that Fairfax County rescinded the no-cooking rule, but why should free people have to beg for special dispensation?
"Fairfax is stepping back," said a homeless man we spoke to. "They're not going to enforce it… for now. This year… What about next year?"
Right. If you've got connections, or catch the attention of the media, you can bask in your government leader's forgiveness… but the rest of us are still stuck with all the rules. It makes me and some homeless people in Fairfax County want to tell all the regulators: Give me a break!