The Russian word “soviet” actually means “council” or “committee” and was originally intended to be just that. However, during the late 1940’s and through to the fall of Communism under Reagan, the name can to mean an entrenched bureaucratic system of government which knew best what’s good for you. The Louisville Metro Council is fast becoming the Louisville Metro Soviet. This issue is some of the reasons I think why.
The Metro Council’s original Animal Ordinance was intended to restrict dangerous animals, most notably Pit Bulls and Dobermans, but effectively punished all dog owners in general. Apparently there had been little interest from Animal Control to step up to the plate and accept responsibility for enforcement of existing laws. The outcry from pet owners and animal associations across the country such as the American Kennel Club, the National Animal Interest Alliance, as well as the Louisville Kennel Club was almost deafening. A boycott of Louisville by dog shows was promoted until a fairer ordinance was enacted. With some of the language changed, an amended ordinance was passed. However, it still contained language which penalized responsible pet owners, dog fanciers, and breeders. The end result was that the Metro Council attempted a blanket approach to a problem of which only a few individuals were guilty, and no doubt could have been better handled using existing laws available to Animal Control. This approach also cost the City of Louisville hundreds of thousands of dollars in convention money the dog shows brought in as well as gave Louisville a black eye nationally among pet owners and kennel associations. Bad Council. Sit. Stay.
Next, Metro Council decided to ban smoking in public places including bars and restaurants. Several hearings were held, and despite the pleas of tavern and restaurateurs that such an ordinance would negatively impact their businesses, it seemed pretty obvious that the Metro Council (pushed by Mayor Jerry Abramson) was going to play the role of Mother Hen and decided what’s good for us. Don’t get me wrong about smoking. I think it’s stupid and nothing more than a slow form of suicide, but I also think it’s a matter of personal choice, even if that choice isn’t an intelligent one.
Metro Council paraded in employees complaining about working in smoke filled establishments, and heard how they smelled of tobacco smoke, and all the damage it was doing to their lungs. They also heard complaints from patrons about having to inhale second hand smoke, despite the fact that most restaurants (and a few taverns) have smoking and non smoking sections. They also heard from business owners in other cities which had enacted similar laws and how little effect the change was on their businesses in the long run (and owners whose businesses didn’t survive “the long run”).
Ok, fair enough. However, most restaurants owners had previously invested thousands of dollars in separate ventilation systems (after obtaining a legal opinion) to minimize any second hand smoke. Secondly, the last I heard, we have employment at will in this Commonwealth. This means that if individuals know that the place where they’re seeking employment allows smoking and if that’s a problem, they can and should look elsewhere. Finally, patrons understand that certain establishments may have more smoking than others (like bars and taverns). If that’s an issue, you might want to try patronizing another establishment.
Should this be the role of government? In my opinion, no. It should be up to the owners to decide if they want their establishment to be smoke free or not. After all, it’s their business not the Metro council’s and it’s them who will suffer (or not) financially, not Metro Council. Who knows, there may be a niche for smoke free bars and restaurants and that could open up the door for some savvy entrepreneurs. People should be free to patronize the place of their choice. If you want to go to an establishment that permits smoking, that’s your choice. If you want to work at a smoke free business, that again is your choice. Should business owners be allowed to sue the City for lost income as a result of the ordinance? I don’t know. But I do know Metro Council took another step in becoming "Big Brother".
Another issue which arose out of this ordinance was that Churchill Downs would be exempt from the smoking ban. How could every other public establishment be forced to comply and take a financial hit while Churchill Downs could get by with it? Well, just recently Circuit Court Judge Denise Clayton asked the same question and found the ordinance unconstitutional because it exempted one business while discriminating against others. Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Ryan found the ordinance itself unconstitutional because of the Churchill Downs exemption. Mayor Abramson immediately pleaded with business owners to enforce the ordinance and is moving quickly to get a restraining order on the ruling to allow time for an appeal to be mounted. However, the result seems to have been just the opposite as many restaurant, tavern and bar owners gleefully put out their ashtrays. Such was the fresh air of personal choice. Of course, if people don’t contact their Metro Council representative ask that they vote against a revised ordinance, personal choice and responsibility will go up in smoke.
Lastly, Metro Council has embarked on deciding what’s good for us when it comes to our diet. Metro Council is attempting to pass an ordinance that would outlaw all Trans fats because it’s considered unhealthy and may contribute to various health problems. That issue is still under discussion at the moment, but frankly it’s none of their business what I eat, when I eat, or where I eat. I am an adult and I will take personal responsibly for my actions, even if those actions aren’t necessary in my best interest. Besides, have you ever looked at the counsel members? I think they need to worry more about what they put in their mouths and less about I put in mine. If they want to do something, allocate some money to the Health Department so they can mount some sort of media campaign about Trans fats, but leave me and my French fries alone.
The Louisville Metro Council has devolved from a group of civic minded individuals interested in doing what’s best for the community at large into a lockstep bureaucratic perfunctory organization determined to manage our lives, and often at the behest of the "Mayor-for-Life". Instead of addressing a specific issue about certain dogs and their owners, it chose to punish all pet owners with a blanket ordinance. Instead of allowing businesses the option of being smoking or nonsmoking, and individuals the choice to work at or patronize these businesses, they made the blanket decision for everyone for our collective good. Instead of allowing individuals the choice of what they eat, Metro Council has decided they will pick our foods for us. If this isn’t the definition of the word “soviet”, I don’t know what is.
Juicy Political Gossip!
I’ve recently heard some political rumors that I think you may find interesting. In District 14, it looks like incumbent Bob Henderson (D) may have some company. One candidate, Michael Bowman (D) has made his intentions known. Bowman, a political novice, already has his website up and running. You can check it out at http://www.electbowman.com/index.html. Another familiar name will be announcing his candidacy on the Democratic side in early January. But for now, he wants to keep that mum.
On the Republican side, Chris Thieneman could be facing off against Gordon Richie. Chris previously ran for Jefferson County Clerk, first as a Democrat and then, after losing to Steve Magre, switching to Republican and supporting the eventual winner, Bobbie Holsclaw. Chris also spearheaded the successful “Support the Library Not the Tax” initiative which opposed a tax increase being pushed by Jerry Abramson (and giving the Mayor-for-Life a big hit to his ego to boot). Gordon Ritchie is a resident of Valley Station, and whose family has lived in the area since 1863 which should give him some local notoriety. Ritchie owns a small farm off Dixie Highway near Kosmosdale. For those who keep track of such things, Ritchie’s farm has received $16,985.65 in federal subsidies from 1995 through 2005 according to the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidies Database (http://farm.ewg.org/farm/persondetail.php?custnumber=004253039). Of more immediate interest is that Ritchie serves on Henderson’s District Advisory board and has been touted by Henderson as a candidate for the seat. Odd to say the least. Sounds like an attempt at a spoiler to me.
Speaking of the Library Tax, District 16 Metro Councilwoman Ellen Call has decided to hang it up to spend more time with her family rather than seek reelection. That’s probably a pretty good idea. Call, a Republican, spent her political capital by supporting Abramson’s efforts to pass the library tax, and even appeared in one of the Mayor’s commercials encouraging voters to vote for the tax. Former radio talk show host, Joe Elliott appears to be interested in the seat as does Paul Grisanti. Should be a good race.
Not so secret was Doug Hawkins’ attempt to bring illegal immigration to the Metro Council’s attention. Hawkins failed in his efforts, which really didn’t surprise me due to his lack of preparation. Doug needed more specific proposals than he brought to the table such as making English the official language of Metro Government and its agencies or imposing stiff penalties on any business or agency that harbors or employs illegal aliens. Despite federal laws to the contrary, there are local businesses and groups who defy existing laws on aiding illegals.