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08.27.08

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

Not Lovin' It

By Gary Singh


I JUST COULDN'T RESIST yet another episode of The Gong Show, er, the city of San Jose's Rules and Open Government Committee, since last week's episode involved a proposed citywide moratorium on all new fast food restaurants. Following a similar moratorium in an area of south Los Angeles last month, which passed unanimously, three San Jose City Council members—Nora Campos, Forrest Williams and Kansen Chu—decided the time was right for the city to jump on the french fry prohibition bandwagon. The memorandum from Campos' office also called for a zoning ordinance to prevent any more fast food restaurants from opening up within 1,000 feet of every single school in the city of San Jose, the logic being that some impoverished neighborhoods are disproportionately saturated with fast food places, which are contributing to kids' obesity problems. One public supporter at the meeting even equated obesity with tobacco. Sheesh.

Campos was absent from the meeting due to giving birth the evening before, and the committee of Mayor Chuck Reed, and Councilmembers Dave Cortese and Pete Constant, rejected the whole shooting match out of hand. Reed said a fast food moratorium was a bad way to solve kids' obesity problems. Constant added that even though he himself is fat, his kids are not. In other words, they gonged the whole stinkin' idea.

Of course, obesity is exploding out of control across the United States, and certain unhealthy fast food definitely contributes to the problem somewhat, but the logic behind a fast food moratorium, essentially, is to treat us all like children, legislate everyone's french fry habits and safeguard people from their own stupidity. Or in other words, "protecting you from the consequences of your actions by restricting your options"—the Nanny State, as some have come to call it.

As soon as the establishment media blew up the issue last week, the expected backlash arose from the hyperparanoid, right-wing, anti-government, shotguns-n-smokes crowd who spouted that this is all the fault of the "goddamn liberals," which it isn't, really. If you do the homework, you'll find equally as many crusading kooks on the right supporting such government meddling.

Personally, I would love to see a San Jose where no one desires fast food at all, even if Chuck Reed does like the salads at McDonald's, but this latest nonsense is just one more ridiculous attempt to baby sit the entire population. This is happening all across the country and most people who support these intrusive measures usually conclude their outcry with the exact same overemotional slogan: "It's for the children."

The logic here goes something this: Keep all the fast food restaurants that currently cause obesity and diabetes, but just don't let any more of them open up. Anywhere. And if we do this, then healthier restaurants will suddenly start moving in because no more fast food places are allowed to. The kids will have more choices. It's basically food-zoning, for lack of any other term.

In the end, council "celebrity judges" Reed, Constant and Cortese sat through the whole nauseating half-baked charade and then effectively gonged the whole thing, sending the proponents packing.

Last year, the folks over at Reason magazine interviewed David Harsanyi, author of Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children. Harsanyi had this to say: "I live in a mixed-use modern liberal community in Denver. Literally every person in this godforsaken place goes jogging in the morning, rides a bike, and climbs a mountain on the weekend. I root for people when I see them smoking around here. There are plenty people in this country who are healthy. And there are plenty people in this country who aren't. It's none of my business. And it's certainly none of government's business to coerce us into either camp."

Amen. Banning Mr. Chau's is not the answer to anything.


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