John Locke Update / Research Newsletter (Archive)

In This Issue: Big change in Chatham County/Raleigh considers outdoor smoking ban

posted on in Local Government

Chatham County Commissioners attack their budget crisis

The new Republican majority on the Chatham County commission has moved rapidly to confront its current budget shortfall. At their January 3 meeting, the commissioners approved several measures that will save about "$2 million over the next four years plus a savings of an estimated $275,000 in the current budget year."

Commissioners cut in three areas. Four staff positions were eliminated, including the directors of the Department of Sustainable Communities Development and the Office of Human Relations. Two unfilled positions were also cut.

The consultant’s contract for the update of the county land use plan was delayed, saving $300,000 over two years. Finally, the funding for Chapel Hill Transit’s Pittsboro Express bus route was cut. This change will take place in six months, giving riders and the Chapel Hill Transit time to make adjustments.

New commission chairman Brian Bock expressed concern for the impact of staff cuts on individuals and the county operations, but also stated, "The majority of the board feels that we need to be especially careful with taxpayers’ money given the current economy and what we may be facing with expected state budget cuts." For more details, see this county press release.


Raleigh city council delays outdoor smoking ban, for now

The carnival sideshow called Raleigh city council meetings continued yesterday as council members considered a smoking ban in city parks and greenways. It seems that the council members have an endless supply of policies that residents find more than a little amusing. One of the most hilarious episodes was the proposal to ban garbage disposals. The thought of sending undercover police officers to Home Depot and Lowe’s to hide behind displays in order to catch Raleigh residents buying black market garbage disposals was too much, and the laughter caused the council to back off.

Unfortunately, public humiliation has not stopped some on the council from suggesting additional violations of personal freedoms. But the caution expressed by even the most liberal council members yesterday has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with questions about enforce of the ordinance. According to The News & Observer, Councilman Thomas Crowder said, "Everyone agrees this is going to be an enforcement nightmare."

And what do the liberals base their coercive ordinance on? This is where it gets really funny: the dangers of secondhand smoke. Is there a credible study that says that secondhand smoke outdoors is dangerous?

I picture myself sitting on a park bench conversing with a friendly stranger. He lights up a cigarette and since I am downwind, the smoke drifts onto me. Liberal council members want to send in a SWAT team with fire extinguishers to douse the flames and lead him off in handcuffs.

Absent an ordinance to "protect" me, what are my options? I could ask the stranger to change places or I could politely excuse myself and find another bench. Either option allows both of us to continue to enjoy the park unmolested by the nanny state council members.

Fortunately, the council has delayed action on the ordinance. Council members want information on how other jurisdictions — Boone, Asheville, and Buncombe County — enforce their ordinances and how much the no-smoking signs will cost. I would also suggest that they read the Declaration of Independence that states that the purpose of government is to protect our rights, not violate them, and the November election returns that strongly suggest that the people are fed up with nanny state politicians.

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Michael Sanera is Director of Research and Local Government Studies at the John Locke Foundation. He served as a policy analyst for the Washington, DC based The Heritage Foundation, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the California based Claremont Institute. ...

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