Friday, December 29, 2006

The Metro Council of Nannies

When I was a kid growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I often heard people remark that Democrats never meet a tax or social program they didn’t like. In fact, it’s what led to the Democratic Party being referred to in those days as the “Nanny Party”. The Republicans then were a different breed than they are today. Back then, the GOP was about maximum independence from government. They revered self reliance, a small government, financial accountability, and personal independence. It’s perhaps an irony that most of the environmental protection initiatives were Republican in origin. This brings me to the subject of this edition, that is, the “Metro Council of Nannies”.

The Louisville Metro Council is dominated by Democrats, and though well meaning as they are, have decided they know what’s good for us. Like any good nanny should, we’re going to take our medicine and like it. Let’s look at the “No Smoking” Ordinance first, and then on to a couple other recent issues. As a disclaimer, I’m no fan of smoking. I consider it nothing more than a coward’s version of suicide. Still, it's an individual's choice, which I can respect. Just a little common courtesy please and you keep your smoke out of my space.

Metro Council has decided that employees of bars, restaurants, etc are being forced into working in unhealthy environments. Somehow, these otherwise intelligent individuals are being held captive by their employers in smoke clogged establishments and required to endure hours upon hours of toxic secondhand smoke. As if that’s not bad enough, patrons were being dragged in off the streets into these dens of sin to set in smoke choking taverns and restraurants. Let’s not forget that Metro Council had earlier approved separate smoking and non smoking sections, provided that the owners spend thousands of dollars on new ventilations systems. Interestingly however, employees of Churchill Downs are somehow different from the other serfs…er…employees since Churchill Downs is exempt. Must be all those bucks that fan the air I suppose.

So, what did we learn from this? Well, evidently employees do not have the free choice to seek other employment, perhaps even in non-smoking establishments. Who knows, maybe some enterprising owners may have created their own little niche with completely smoke free bars or restaurants. We also learned that the public was incapable of deciding on whether to patronize a business based on full knowledge of its smoking policy. In short, we—you and I—weren’t capable of making our own decisions, and thus enter the nannies to save us from ourselves.

Next, we have the “Dog Ordinance”. I’m still trying to figure that one out. Apparently Metro Council has decided for us what’s a vicious animal (all of them it would seem), and the solution is simply to penalize everyone. Good going geniuses. If your dog or other pet attacks someone, you’re going to get sued. It’s called taking personal responsibility folks. If you have a dog, keep it fenced in or on a leach…period. How about a warning sign on the fence? Second, let’s have Animal Control actually enforce existing laws on the books. We don’t need the Metro Nannies telling us what we already know. On a side note, I would like to see owners fined for not keeping track of their pets. How many times have you seen some dog or cat out wondering the streets, especially in the mornings, only to later get hit by a car or truck? This lack of care ticks me off like few things can. We bring them into our world. They depend on us to take care and look after them, and in return offer us unconditional love, companionship, and protection. If you can’t take responsibility for your dog or cat, don’t get one! Go buy yourself a hamster or goldfish instead.

Finally, Metro Council wants to restrict what we eat. It would seem that our elected nannies are going to try and remove Trans-fat from our collective diets. Listen, if I want to eat some grease soaked hamburger and bag of fries, it’s none of their business. Frankly, what I do to or with my body is of no one’s concern but mine. There’s an old saying which goes like this, “Do as you will but harm none”. It means it’s your life. So long as no one is harmed or injured, do what makes you happiest. We elected these folks to fix potholes, pick up trash, and make sure we have adequate police, fire, and EMS. Other than that, they can get out of my life and stop telling me what to do, unless, as my grandmother used to say, they want to pay my bills in which case we can discuss a possible curfew time.

A Street by any other Name isn’t as Sweet

Metro Councilwomen Barbara Shanklin and Mary Woolridge, along with everyone’s favorite jester of street theater, the Rev. Louis Coleman, came into Portland hell bent on renaming 22nd Street after Martin Luther King Jr. There was just one problem however, no one bothered to ask the folks who lived in Portland what they thought of the proposal…until then. About halfway through the meeting, after getting an earful from angry residents, Shanklin and Woolridge walked out, still vowing to have their way.

Our renowned city historian, and fellow Metro Councilman, Tom Owens proclaimed that even though Portland’s history was primarily Irish, German, and Catholic, there was throughout Portland's history small enclaves of black residents. After the collective “duh” subsided, many are still wondering why we need another street named after the fallen civil rights leader. As most residents know, Rev. King did visit Louisville once, and marched downtown along Broadway. In the 1980’s, the small street in front of the Federal Building, along with park, were named in his honor.

Louisville has the John F. Kennedy Bridge, named after the slain president, who also visited our fair city. Then there is the Ron Mazzolli Federal Building, named after the popular congressman. Of course, we have the both the Gene Snyder Expressway and the Gene Snyder Post Office Building which houses, among other things, the federal courts. Gene too was a long serving and quite popular congressman.

Despite his public disavow of Louisville on several occasions, Louisville renamed Walnut Street after boxer Muhammad Ali in the 1970’s. In fact, we now have the Muhammad Ali Center, which seems to have suffered from late construction, overruns, inadequate funding, poor attendance, and may soon find its way to being publicly supported by taxpayer dollars. But what about Louisville’s other unsung heroes? We have a stadium and two bridges being built, plus several large new office and apartment buildings being built downtown. Will one of them find a place of honor there?

Keeping with the boxing theme for a moment, what about legendary heavyweight Jimmy Ellis? Ellis is a born and bred Louisville boxer who was always proud to say he was from the River City. Jimmy fought 50 professional bouts, and won 40 of those with 24 by knockout. From 1968 until 1970, he was the world heavyweight champion, after beating another boxing great, Jerry Quarry for the WBA Heavyweight Championship title. Ellis fought and beat the super Floyd Patterson and kept his title until losing it another one of boxing legends, “Smokin” Joe Frazier. Ellis, who never left Louisville and still makes his home here, was truly a giant among giants and yet this world recognized legend remains virtually unknown in Louisville (and let’s not forget Greg Page, another one of our boxing greats who remains in the shadows).

Speaking of legends, none were greater than the Green Bay Packers during the 1960’s under Coach Vince Lombardi. This was time when football was played by tough men for the mere love of the game. No over inflated egos allowed. In this era of Joe Namath of the New York Jets, Tex Schramm and Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys, Roman Gabriele of the Los Angles Rams, Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears, Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns, and Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts (who attended UofL by the way), none eclipsed Green Bay’s Bart Starr (still my personal favorite of all time), Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, and Louisville’s own, Paul Hornung.

Paul “The Golden Boy” Hornung dominated the 1960 football season with 176 points and followed it up in 1961 with 146 points, He continued his breakneck pace throughout most of the 1960’s. Even some of footballs greatest running backs like Emmitt Smith, Priest Holms, Marshall Faulk, Gary Anderson, and Shaun Alexander failed to beat Paul’s 1960 record. It wasn’t until 2006 that LaDainian Thomlinson finally broke the record.

Today, Paul Hornung is a successful businessman here in Louisville, but despite his status among football’s greatest of all time, there are no streets, buildings, or bridges named after this former great running back. And speaking of football players, let’s talk briefly about another Louisville great, Phil Simms.

Phil Simms was born in Lebanon, Kentucky but grew up in Louisville. He went on to attend Morehead State. The New York Giant Quarterback won three MVP awards, not to mention Super Bowl XXI, and set more records than I have space for. Today he is a sports commenter and analysis as well as a successful businessman. Sadly, he too remains virtually ignored by his hometown while still adored by football fans everywhere.

Finally, how about TV Anchor, Diane Sawyer? Here’s a woman who was born in Glasgow Kentucky, but grew up in Louisville and cut her journalistic teeth right here at WLKY-TV. She went on to serve in two White House administrations, Richard Nixon’s and Gerald Ford’s. Diane has won just about every journalistic award there is, including two Peabody’s, the IRTS Lifetime Achievement Award, the Broadcasting Magazine’s Hall of Fame, and induction into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.

These are just a few people who deserve to be honored by the citizens of Louisville, but there are many more. They were born here. They grew up here. Finally, then went on to greatness while doing making us proud of their accomplishments. If anyone deserves having a street, or bridge, or anything else named after them, it’s these folks.

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