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Update: Boise councilor backs down on aggressive fast food ban, billboard restrictions

Update: Boise councilor backs down on aggressive fast food ban, billboard restrictions

Dustin Hurst
April 10, 2015
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April 10, 2015

Note: Updated April 11, 2015 at 1:50 AM. 

Boise City Councilor TJ Thomson backed down Friday on a plan to ban fast food joints within 1,000 feet of area high schools.

Thomson, in an effort to combat childhood obesity, announced he intended to pursue that restriction in the city council this year, along with bans on billboards and advertising on some bus stops around schools.

“After performing additional research and gaining valued input from health experts, colleagues and constituents, I will not be pursuing any limitation on fast food restaurants surrounding Boise high schools as part of my 'Healthy Initiatives 2.0',” Thomson wrote in a social media post Friday.

Thomson added the fast food restriction wouldn’t do much to further his goals.

“The work I am performing is not meant to be symbolic; but rather, it is meant to be effective in benefiting children’s health,” Thomson wrote. “As a result of newly obtained information, I do not believe that limiting new fast food restaurants around high schools will help to achieve my ultimate goal of reducing childhood obesity rates within the city.”

Thomson emailed IdahoReporter.com Friday to say he also reversed course on banning advertising unhealthy food on billboards within 1,000 feet of city schools.

"I wanted to note that I am also no longer pursuing any additional limitations on billboards," Thomson said. "I looked at this issue, listened to constituents, and examined the impacts. I don't see a major benefit to kid's health in continuing a discussion regarding that effort.."

Thomson's plan still restricts advertising on bus stops near schools, requiring them to feature family oriented or kid-friendly ads.

Additionally, Thomson wants healthier food options at city owned entertainment venues, like the zoo. The plan would also jump-start a pilot program to give food stamp recipients additional cash to allow them to purchase healthier food.

Thomson, who said in Facebook posts he was prepared for the coming backlash, took fire from the pro-freedom crowd in Boise, but also from an unlikely source: The Idaho Statesman.

The paper, not exactly a purveyor of liberty oriented ideas, worried Thomson’s plan might reach too far. Here’s what the paper offered in an April 8 editorial:

Thomson’s motivation is in the right place, but he needs to listen when people say “you can’t legislate diets,” “this seems draconian” or “this is an overreach.” There is a sweet spot between these proposals and the weight loss of the Subway guy, Jared. Let’s find it.

There is no timeline for hearings on Thompson’s plan. He remains committed to the rest of the package.

“With these new initiatives, along with our prior success to integrate healthy initiatives into Boise child care utilizing a market-based approach, we can continue moving forward to make Boise the healthiest city in America,” Thomson said on Facebook.

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