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Democracy falls to the Nanny State

For 11 years, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has gone out of his way to bypass the democratic process by issuing mayoral edicts. He has assumed vast powers in the name of public health.

Through the city's health department, Bloomberg made restaurants post calorie counts on their menus. He also barred artificial trans fats in french fries and other restaurant food.

Single-handedly.

Companies accepted these edicts, but Bloomberg's decision to bar companies from selling soft drinks larger than 16 ounces drew a challenge in court.

"New Yorkers do not want to be told what to drink," attorney James Brandt told Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling.

Brandt represented the American Beverage Association. The NAACP, the Hispanic Foundation, Korean grocers, movie theater owners, corner stores, and five members of city council have also objected in court.

They argue the rule should require approval by City Council. In their filing, the five council members said council is "the proper forum for balancing the city's myriad interests in matters of public health."

The litigants also point out that the exemptions are arbitrary. For example, the restriction does not apply to supermarkets, convenience stores and 7-Eleven, home of the 30-ounce Big Gulp.

In its response, the Bloomberg administration said, "It would be irresponsible for (the health board) not to act in the face of an epidemic of this proportion."

If the case were so compelling, the mayor should have made his case to City Council, heard out citizens' objections, and tried to win council's support.

But he didn't. He and the health board simply decided what legal products business may sell, and how much of it citizens may buy.

This is crackers. A government that requires businesses to go through all sorts of hoops and red tape to get various permits is itself unwilling to comply with the requirements of the democratic process.

The purpose of American government is not to control citizens but to protect and defend their liberty.

Courts should remind high officials of that fact.

 


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