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Cities push to enlarge the nanny state

Cities push to enlarge the nanny state

Wayne Hoffman
October 3, 2011
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October 3, 2011

For all the complaints about city budgets being stretched to the limit, our local governments here in Idaho are at the forefront of growing the nanny state with as much gusto as the federal government. Examples abound in just the last month.

Example one comes from the city of Boise, where statists (those people who believe in and worship the power of government) are contemplating a ban on smoking in local bars.

City bosses say the new smoking ban will improve health. Never mind the fact that people who go into a smoky bar do so of their own free will and faced with free market alternatives — to enter or not enter a smoky bar — and yet some people choose to do it. City officials, however, are electing to replace the smoke in the air (and free thinking) with economic uncertainty. The city budget is (supposedly) tight, but not tight enough to stop the creation of a new crime on the books for city police to enforce.

Not to be outdone, Sandpoint is where city officials have passed an ordinance banning the use of cell phones while driving — whether talking or texting. That’s apparently because the police chief thought it was too hard to just ban texting — so now every activity in the phone-car continuum is now illegal. If you’re in Sandpoint, beware. Even if you’re not hurting anyone, you’re now a criminal.

In Meridian, the city council has put in place regulations on precious metal transactions. While not nearly as bad as Meridian’s first attempt to write an ordinance on gold and silver buying and selling in the city, it still creates new paperwork requirements and exposes to legitimate private financial transactions to police scrutiny. Guess where I won’t be buying and selling my precious metals anymore?

Over in Hailey, school kids collected enough signatures to put a ban on plastic bags to a vote in November. The bag ban would impose penalties on violations, because people apparently are unable to decide for themselves which bags are best to use. This, of course, will require more city enforcement, but additionally will drive up retail costs.

All of these ideas are borne out of the belief that government knows what’s best for us. If you’re not convinced that’s the overriding mentality, consider this story in the Idaho Statesman last month: Boise officials were dismayed at one neighborhood’s objection to new sidewalks. A neighborhood survey found that 77 percent didn’t want $2 million spent on the project. That prompted Boise Councilman David Eberle to demand of highway district officials, “You need to go back and figure out why these people are so hostile.” Hostile? To new sidewalks? How dare those people think independently of their city masters.

We’ve focused so much lately on the big and overreaching federal nanny government. But there’s as much mischief taking place in our city halls, as much mother-hen daydreaming as in Congress. Last month’s flood of ridiculous freedom-altering public policies in our state proves my point.

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