The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 16, 2013

Bill Jones | A blow against government intrusion

JOHNSTOWN — A New York State Supreme Court judge struck a blow for freedom Monday when he ruled that New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s ban on large, sugary soft drinks was not legal.

It appears to have wounded Bloomberg’s efforts to control people’s actions and behavior in the name of making them do what he thinks is good for them, rather than what they choose to do. He had announced the ban, which was to go into effect Tuesday, as striking a blow against

obesity, which he said is a cause of heart disease and diabetes.

Nobody is arguing that Americans as a class are fat, probably too fat for our own good. But if we choose to kill ourselves with our knives and forks – and soda straws – it is not the role of government to dictate what we may eat or drink, or how much of whatever.

Bloomberg, who often takes it upon himself to take care of people he thinks are unable to take care of themselves properly, did an end run when he went through his health department to impose a ban on sugary drinks of more than 16 ounces. It was not an action of the city council and thus did not apply to all eateries in the city.

Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan ruled that Bloomberg’s decree was “arbitrary and capricious” in that it did not apply to all restaurants and fast food establishments, only to those that came under the jurisdiction of the health department.

The judge also said that to allow the health department to have “such sweeping authority” would cause serious damage to the separation of powers of the executive and legislative branches of government.

One has to wonder whether Bloomberg was learning from President Obama in his decision to bypass the legislative branch (city council) in ruling by executive order. That appears to be a growing and unsavory practice in our nation’s capital.

The New York mayor also seems to be mimicking the president’s practices in other ways. In a last-ditch attempt to preserve his edict, Bloomberg released new “data” that he said linked sugary drinks to New York City’s “fattest neighborhoods.” Obama brought in several gun victims to bolster his State of the Union address seeking new gun control legislation, and has used executive orders to attain some of what he wants.

Personally, I don’t really want to be fat, although I am. But I have even less desire to have a governmental demagogue dictating to me how I should live my life. That is not what this great nation is all about.

This is not the first time I have disagreed with Bloomberg. His efforts to push gun control – by any means possible – does not sit well. New York City has very strict gun control laws, but it ranks among the highest in crimes involving guns, including murder.

You have only to look at Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and a few other cities to know that they do not keep guns out of the hands of criminals with laws that criminals ignore.

I am willing to give Bloomberg – and others like him – benefit of the doubt. He may be very sincere in his efforts to improve people’s health with his edicts, but he steps beyond his authority whenever it suits him.

Bloomberg said Justice Tingling was “totally in error” with his ruling against the ban on large, sugary drinks and said he will appeal.

We can hope that he will lose again.

Obesity can be detrimental to one’s health to be sure, and can bring on premature death in some people. That is unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as losing our freedom to choose our own lifestyle, and what we will eat and drink.

Bill Jones is a retired senior writer for The Tribune-Democrat.

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