No Fast Food for you! Posted by: McQ
on Friday, August 01, 2008
Of course it isn't that bad, but paraphrasing the Soup Nazi seemed perfect for this follow-up to the story I did earlier in the week about the LA City Council's vote to save the poor fat folks who inhabit South Los Angeles.
To recap, it seems they have a restaurant mix (too much fast food and not enough sit down places with "healthier choices") that is unpleasing to the Council, and they were determined to do something about it. At the time I wrote the piece, they were considering it. They passed it yesterday.
As soon as the mayor signs it - and he will - a moratorium will be imposed in South LA which will not allow any fast food joints to become members of the community.
I pointed to the absurdity of the situation and the unintended consequences which would most likely occur if the moratorium passed into law. Well as it turns out, William Saletan of Slate is none too pleased with the law either. In fact, he calls it "crossing a major red line".
His point seems mostly lost on Matt Yglesias who seems to think their intent is actually good and this could possibly work. And Ezra Klein, who wants to wave it all off as just another mundane zoning decision.
Of course it so far over John Cole's head that he is reduced to whining about how this just isn't a big enough problem to be given column space. Apparently only blatant violations of your rights are worth commenting on in Cole's world. Subtle and possibly more insidious erosions and encroachments of said rights just don't make the grade.
And therein lies the problem. This isn't just about zoning. The decision wasn't made because of the density of fast food joints or the lack of sit down places. It was made because the council saw the canard of obesity as the perfect way to take more control of the lives of others. Apparently it is today's emerging "for the children" appeal to more and more invasive government.
But unlike the paternal "for the children" appeal, we're talking about adults making choices here and the government's decision to attempt to influence and/or limit them.
If it was about zoning and a true desire to see better choices and fresher produce (grocery stores) in the area you'd think the council would be chomping at the bit to find ways to entice them.
The council says they want grocery stores instead of fast food. But only the right kind of grocery stores. Big stores that utilize the economies of scale–that is, the only types of stores that could make fresh produce in low income areas profitable–are off limits in the big city.
Which store can you think of that would provide the economies of scale that Balko is talking about to provide fresh produce at a price friendly to those in a poor section of town?
The Examiner’s Mary Katherine Ham notes that a new law instituting a one-year moratorium on new fast food restaurants in South L.A. was sponsored by a city councilwoman who has fought like hell to keep low-cost produce out of those same neighborhoods:
Yet now the council requires giant retailers to survive an “economic impact report” before being allowed to operate in even the most blighted of neighborhoods.
In 2004, she backed an ordinance to keep one of America’s lowest-priced grocers (Wal-Mart) out of the area, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal.
By attempting to ban Wal-Mart, Perry was not only depriving her district of that store’s low prices, but also of the ripple effect Wal-Mart can have on area groceries. According to economic analysts, the price of groceries drops an average of 10-15 percent in markets Wal-Mart enters.
Yup ... it's all about "zoning" isn't it?
Zoning laws always concern themselves with 'obesity', don't they?
This has nothing to do with sit down restaurants, grocery stores or zoning. This is about power and politics. About finding a new way to exert control.
Set a precedent. Try it out among the poor folk who have much less of a voice and then, when the timing is right, try it in a more affluent area.
If you don't object to this being done now in South LA, how can you object to it being done in your area?
Already, the majority leader of New York’s city council wants to adopt food zoning, and several cities have phoned L.A.’s planning department to request copies of the ordinance.
Saletan hits the nail on the head when he points out that this is a "disturbingly paternalistic" way addressing a perceived problem. But then, government at all levels is becoming more "disturbingly paternalistic" isn't it?
Paternalism, whether 'disturbing' or not, leads to a loss of freedom and choice. And that is why travesties like this deserve every bit of column space they get to make that case.
Speaking of unintended consequences, congrats to the L.A. City Council for effectively stunting job growth in the poorest areas of Los Angeles! I suppose the South Los Angelenos could drive or take public transport to other communities where they may find a McJob. That should work out pretty well with gas over $4 a gallon, and increasing metro rates.
I note that it didn’t occur to the City Council to deregulate the restaurant "industry" to make it any easier for local entrepreneurs to open up shop.