Friday, April 14, 2006

Greenfield Report

Libertarians and a concerned citizens group held a Freedom Rally outside city hall prior to the Greenfield City Council meeting last night. It was interesting, to say the least.

The rally came in response to Greenfield's smoking ban. Some of the concerned citizens are smokers, others are business owners that catered to smokers, and others are defenders of property rights. The group took the time to craft a compromise ordinance, that would give greater options to business owners. It would permit restauranteurs to make their establishment an adult-only facility, which matches the law in nearby Indianapolis.

The meeting started with a discussion on all things related to the ban, but it was a council-only discussion. The issue of the literal interpretation of the ban, which would prevent churches from burning incense at services, was discussed at length, as were the issues of enforcement.

The Council entertained two amendments to the ordinance that were suggested by Council members. They voted on these, and moved on.

They did not introduce the amendments proposed by the citizens group. They took public comment after the voting was completed.

It really served as excellent commentary on how much interest the Council has in public input.

But, public input was taken, and an interesting group of people spoke. Two were from the Daniels Administration, and both commended the Council on the passage of the ordinance. One said it made his job of luring business to Indiana easier. How's that? By showing people property rights have no place here? I'm really doubting that the floodgates of corporate relocations are now beginning to burst. Slash the tax rates and pump smoke into every room, and then you'll see an exodus to Indiana.

Another supporter, who spoke directly before me, made the claim that "Big Tobacco" was behind the opposition with big dollars, that opponents always couch their arguments in terms of rights, and that we always ask the question, "if this now, what next"? He got 2 out of 3.

I spoke and made no apologies for defending the rights of property owners. I made the case for the primacy of property rights. The dynamic involved in backing non-smokers who want the policy enforced over the objections of the restaurant property owner is this: "I'm here now, so you get to change to suit me". I stated that Libertarians believe that the owner gets to call the shots, not every body else but the owner. Alas, this is the absurd world we live in.

I did ask "what next", because if a City can ban smoking within a business, can they not use the same rationale to extend the same law to your home? Health is the rationale, and it seems entirely foreseeable to me that banning smoking in the home to protect children is next.

As for "Big Tobacco", I said I sure would love to see about $300,000 in tobacco money. I turned and asked the gallery if anyone had even seen a nickel from a tobacco company. Of course, nobody had. In fact, tobacco is one of the most curious industries in the USA today. It is the only legal product whereby its producers have to spend millions of dollars urging people not to use it. More importantly, and contrary to the assertion made by the man who preceded me, Big Tobacco actually funds the non-profit organizations that do the work of pushing these bans on the cities. The websites that host the model legislation are paid for by Big Tobacco dollars.

Well, why let facts, or liberty, get in the way of an unfortunate ordinance? I don't smoke, by my own choice. It was choice that was squashed in Greenfield once again.

I am eagerly awaiting the publication of the Greenfield paper. I was having a conversation with a friend as the reporter stood by. He asked me what I thought of the Councilor who made a claim to this effect- (paraphrasing) "I try to listen to the constituents and go with them. More people who were in favor of the ban spoke to me and urged me to vote this way. This is the right way to govern, in my opinion".

What do I think of that? Not much. What I said was, "That man has no moral compass". The reporter wrote hungrily in her notebook. That's fine. I knew she was there.

I meant it. If a preponderance of residents approach this Councilor and urge him to enact an 80% tax on guys named Fred, would he do it only because it was the will of the majority? Right and wrong has no basis? Principle has no place? That was what this man explained for all to hear. What matters is the mob.

What the heck- business was good for me. About 30 people took lovely 'Kole' bumper stickers. I really wish there was zero interest in them last night. I would have gone away happier knowing that the health of our nation -the defense of property rights- hadn't been traded away to the health nannies.

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