NEWS

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August 1, 2006

How far has the Chicago city council really gone?

Chicago has gotten a lot of attention lately for the actions of the city government. Earlier in the year it passed a pretty standard smoking ordinance (similar laws are now in place in NYC and CT immediately come to mind). Lately it banned foie gras, passed a minimum wage requirement for large businesses, an alderman is proposing getting rid of trans-fats, and a vote is close on a law requiring microchips for all dogs. These developments prompted the Washington Post to report on a couple reactions of city residents about how they are upset and wish the city council would use its time better. I can't blame the residents quoted, especially because I agree—the council could use its time better—but I think the article goes a little too far in trying to isolate Chicago as a unique example.There are a couple of stupid, over reaching that the Post brings up. The "big box" ordinance is absurd, but it hasn't been signed into law, and the the Tribune is hoping (as I am) that Mayor Daley will veto it. The foie gras ban is also silly, but inconsequential. Other than George, I don't know anyone who actually cares about the law. Raising property taxes is much more invasive than banning foie gras, but the Post doesn't seem to think so. The trans-fat ban would be the silliest and most invasive law yet, but it is only the crackpot idea of a single alderman, not even a possibility of becoming law. Then there are the set of laws that are just good law making. First, the smoking ordinance is pretty standard, as I said earlier. The article also mentions a proposed ban on smoking at the beach, which seems like a great idea to me—a simple way to get rid of the costs smokers impose on everyone at the beach:

Cameron Davis, executive director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said 1,300 volunteers collected 30,000 butts on 30 beaches in just three hours last September."That's too much. It presents a risk to children and fish and wildlife, and cigarettes are not good for water quality," Davis said. "Education is not working. We're still finding some people are using our beaches as ashtrays."
Then there are a host of other "examples" of Chicago over-reach which don't seem to be invading anyone’s life:
Aldermen passed an ordinance preventing hospitals from qualifying for tax exemptions if they did not permit new mothers to remain under care for 48 hours after delivery. They agreed to supplement the military pay of city employees called up for duty, to prevent any loss of salary.
The microchip law for dogs sounds like its out of a sci-fi movie, but it could be a great way of keeping track of the city’s dogs which also is a huge cost imposed on the city.Simply put, the Chicago City Council might have done some silly things lately, but when you really look at it, they aren’t the crazed paternalistic set of politicians that the Post makes them out to be.