Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who's Behind the Save Indianapolis Bars Campaign?

I was tuning into radio host Carl Brizzi's Crime Beat program today on WIBC to hear the latest from the wackiest Prosecutor in town when I heard a quizzical ad. As I'm backing out of my garage in my neighborhood, I heard an ad for an organization called Save Indianapolis Bars. I pulled over...whipped out my trusty pen and wrote down the URL to make sure I checked it out when I got home.

When I got back, I took off my shoes and sat down in front of my trusty old Toshiba. I typed in the URL and hit enter. Guess what popped up? The Libertarian Party of Marion County website!

The Libertarian Party of Marion County has apparently entered the fray or, more appropriately, has been in the fray for a while to help beat back the comprehensive air ordinance.

The radio ad never identifies itself as being purchased by the Libertarian Party or even who purchased the ad at all, but it definitely advocates the status quo when it comes to the smoking ordinances in Marion County. It also advertises a website. There is also a Facebook Group created of the same name by a Hamilton County bartender and self-identifying Libertarian (according to his Facebook page), Chris Ward. Administrators on the group include Marion County Libertarian Party Chair Timothy Maguire, Indiana Libertarian Party Executive Director Chris Spangle, and former Libertarian Party Executive Director Brad Klopfenstein who admits on his Facebook page that he ran "an association for bar and restaurant owners."

When you go to the link, you link to a page of the LPMC website where things get interesting.

On the valuable side, there's a list with contact information and the current positions of the City-County Councillors in favor or not in favor of the smoking ban. According to the information provided on the site, three Councillors are listed as abstaining from the vote...all Democrats Monroe Gray, Doris Minton-McNeil, and Dane Mahern. There are 12 listed as in favor of the ordinance. They are Democrats Joanne Sanders, Jose Evans, Angela Mansfield, Jackie Nytes, Paul Bateman, Brian Mahern, Mary Moriarity Adams, and Maggie Lewis and Republicans Kent Smith, Barbara Malone, Benjamin Hunter, and Ryan Vaughn. The 10 against the ban are Libertarian Ed Coleman, Republicans Ginny Cain, Janice McHenry, Michael McQuillen, Marilyn Pfisterer, N. Susie Day, Jeff Cardwell, Lincoln Plowman, Christine Scales, and Mike Speedy. The Councillors needing persuading, according to the LPMC website include Democrats William Oliver and Vernon Brown and Republicans Bob Cockrum and Bob Lutz.

Besides this valuable information, there's a link there to two documentaries on smoking, news releases from the Libertarian Party, and several other supportin links. There's also a link to an article by a Libertarian named Evan Matthews. The last paragraph, I find particularly's an apocalyptic rant that could come from the Glenn Beck Show. In fact, for fun, imagine Beck whipping up some tears and saying these words,

Smoking bans are heavy-handed attempts to control individual preference and limit choice. As a by-product of this oppressive, one-size-fits-all legislation, local business owners will likely face revenue declines in the tens of millions. Stubborn smokers will travel to neighboring counties, driving business out of Indianapolis in order to drink and smoke in peace. Afterward, they'll drunkenly swerve their Buicks and Camrys through Circle City streets, recklessly endangering the Marion County populace.

All because adults aren't trusted to choose smoking or non.

Yes, those evil Democrats and Republicans that support the ban. Awful people. They want to drive business away (even though Boston reported an INCREASE in business after the instution of a ban). They want to endanger us by forcing nicotine-deprived zombies to drive out of town to get their smoke and a Daniels. Oh my God...they might even kill me! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The economic point of view seems to have the most traction to me. There are studies mostly funded by restaurant and bar owners...but some legitimate third party studies that show that some businesses suffer when comprehensive smoking bans are put into place. Some studies say it's not exactly a one to one link. On the other hand, there are other studies done by organizations like The Ohio State University that say that there is little or no effect on businesses. One report said that heart attacks were down in Boston by 577 incidents per year.

Clearly, the public health benefit is a major factor here, in my view. Plus, a little selfishly, I have stayed away from bars and restaurants that permit smoking. I hate having to come home and shower immediately to get rid of that nasty smell. I know that the folks that must work in these establishments probably feel even worse.

Yes, I said MUST work in these establishments. Another argument that those that oppose this ordinance use is that they feel as if people can choose to work in non-smoking establishments if they wish. Yes and no. We live in a day and age where it's just not that simple anymore. Sometimes you take whatever job is available. There is no choosing. When that help wanted ad goes up in an economy that's like this one today, most people don't worry about whether it's a smoking place or a non-smoking place until they are being treated for cancer.

I guess I just fail to understand why conservatives, Libertarians, some Democrats, and some Republicans always try to tie these types of good public policy in with the Draconian idea of big government slapping down its iron fist upon them. Tougher gun laws are proposed because we don't want people that don't deserve it getting shot. Hate crimes legislation is put on the books because we feel that some crimes are, in fact, not created equally when they are perpetrated against a particular group or segment of the population soley because someone is a member of that group. Smoking bans are put into place because we care about our public health and welfare.

In the end, less smoking in public reduces health care costs for us all and makes the world a safer place for everyone. That, my friend, is an argument the Libertarians don't want to hear. It makes too much sense to Glenn Beck followers, and they can't process it.

Whatever your opinion, contact the City-County Councillor of your choice and tell them your opinion. Abdul Hakim-Shabazz has said that there does not appear to be enough votes for this thing to win or be defeated completely. We shall see. CALL YOUR COUNCILLOR! Here again is a link to all the contact information you need.

I am in full support of the comprehensive air ordinance, and I didn't even have to buy a confusing ad to tell you that. I love my Libertarian friends, but I can't help but wonder if this was the dog to put their bark into.


Anonymous said...

The local bar I frequent went smokeless two months ago and their business had actually increased. Many people who had quit visiting because of the smoke returned when the bar could offer clean healthly fress air. The bar owner admits he was prepared for a decrease not an increase. He did it because of the cost of damage by cigarettes burns and the discoloration of the bar by the nicotine in the smoke.

Anonymous said...

Good luck on getting any type of response from our city council. I have contacted at least five member with no response from any.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 12:51,

So they went non-smoking voluntarily, without the law requiring them? Isn't that the whole point...letting the business owner decide for himself or herself what is best for that person's business.

I love the notion that certain busybodies know what is better for business than the very people who have invested their money, sometimes their life savings, in these business ventures.

Sean Shepard said...

To piggy back on what Paul said...

How about the notion that busybodies (with too much tobacco settlement money keeping them employed) can spend so much time lobbying the government to strike out against things as simple as "freedom of association".

I personally would love to see more bars go smoke free but that should be their choice in order to fill a market need not because government nanny statists made them.

If they can do this on someone's private business property, at what point do they make it a crime to do it in the privacy of your own home if anyone else is present? Sounds nuts, but, lots of things our government does today would have sounded nuts a couple of decades ago.

Anonymous said...

Looks like it will be dead for now. 12-12 vote with one undecided.

Anonymous said...

Our government regulates the legal substance of beer/alcohol. They tell us where we drink, where we buy it, when we can drink it, who can drink it and the minimum price. Why not do the same for smoking? Regulating the use of products is nothing new.