Tim Burke: Maintaining quality of life, freedoms


“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is how the expression is commonly stated in our modern society but the expression itself can be traced back as far as the 1700s.

Variations of the expression are “One’s man’s pleasure is another’s pain” and a proverb “One’s man’s meat is another’s poison.”

Essentially the modern meaning is that someone may consider a possession that another person has as junk and worthless, but the other person believes it has value. My mother and I have this discussion frequently regarding items she has in storage at her house.

“Mom, we need to throw a bunch of this stuff away, it’s worthless and taking up room.” To which my mom will reply, “It’s not worthless, it has value.”

“No, mom, it doesn’t have any value and we need to get rid of it.” To which my mother replies, “Well, it has value to me.”

It is not as if she is a hoarder and is buried under mountains of stuff in her house. She has everything stored neatly inside sheds in her backyard and knows where everything is.

But I look at some of the items she has stored knowing full well that they will never be used by her.

I just don’t see a use for the collection of automotive repair manuals from the 1970s or the retired vacuum cleaners that she has hung onto. She occasionally will mention that we should list some items on eBay to sell but then she never gets around to doing it. I think a big Dumpster dropped squarely in the middle of her backyard is a better solution but that is never going to happen on her watch. I might think of her stored stuff as junk but she thinks of it as treasure.

One of the attractions of living in a rural area is that you can have “stuff” at your residence and not get too much grief about it. There are examples of residences here in Pahrump that are full of damaged cars, broken equipment, old RVs, and other items that in the opinion of many residents is rather unsightly and just junk. But to some that junk represents a certain freedom from having to conform to what everyone else thinks they should have in their yard. In many ways, it represents a middle finger being lifted by that resident towards government regulations and having someone tell them what they can and can’t have or do.

The best we can hope to achieve is a balance in the community of regulations protecting property values and public safety while maintaining those individual freedoms to control your property as you see fit. The protections for individual property owners should differ from how we should treat regulations for public areas in Pahrump.

In areas such as parks, along our streets, shopping centers, and other visible public areas it is important to maintain certain standards. We have discussed in previous columns our “out-of-control” sign problem along our streets and highways where signs pop up without proper permits and really junk up our intersections.

We have also talked about the illegal trash dumping in the desert by persons too lazy to go to the free landfill. There are also issues with homeless camping out near parks and on street corners. These issues affect everyone, including those living here and those visiting here. There are regulations that deal with those issues but they need to be enforced in a timely and consistent manner. That enforcement benefits the majority and does not affect the individual resident with a lot of “junk” in their yard.

Of course, areas change and evolve. We will change here with younger residents and families moving in and commuting to Las Vegas to work. Current homeowners will want to get as much resale as they can from their homes when they put them on the market and suddenly that next door neighbor whose yard is a mess is hurting their property value. And new residents moving in may decide that their new neighbors’ junk is an eyesore.

I can think of an example of residents moving to a new area and then wanting to impose their view of how things should be. A new subdivision is built near an airport. The airport has been in operation for years. Planes take off and land daily just like they have been doing for years. People buy homes in the new subdivision near the airport and then after moving in decide that the airport needs to change how it operates to accommodate the new residents that moved in next door. Hello, didn’t you notice the airport next to your new house before you decided to move into it?

We must guard against infringing on our individual property rights while maintaining our quality of life. New residents and change can be real positive to a community bringing fresh viewpoints and new energy. But please don’t bring your rules with you and impose them on us. We kind of like our junk.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com