The Board of Supervisors is obsessed with every infinitesimal detail of our daily lives, to such an extent that goes beyond their job requirements and into controlling our day-to-day routines. If you don’t believe this, just look at the laws they’ve passed, or tried to pass, during the last few years.
Several recently proposed bans and taxes are related to consumption of popular foods and beverages. Soda is the current moral panic: a measure is on the city ballot for 2014 to tax soda like cigarettes and a proposed state level law would put warning labels on soda cans.
Just because they love to hate soft drinks doesn’t mean it’s the only popular comestible that’s earned the ire of the Board of Supervisors.
In 2010, the city threatened to outlaw the sale of Happy Meals with toys at McDonalds; last year the proposal of a water bottle ban came into interest; forbidden peanut butter in elementary schools has been on the rise in the past few years; and the Kinder Surprise eggs were banned before they were invented.
This isn’t even touching on some of the other futile laws in the city. Instead of using existing recycling technology to solve our admittedly serious plastic problem, they just banned plastic shopping bags.
Despite being sold and manufactured legally, it is illegal to smoke a cigarette in the open space of outdoor public parks and festivals. Last Christmas, it was against the law to light your own wood-burning fireplace. Even falling asleep outside could get you a ticket.
San Francisco has a reputation as a liberal city, historically being ground zero for issues such as the gay rights movement and lax marijuana enforcement. This a good thing; this is why people who were “different” flocked to San Francisco during the legendary hippie era.
But there’s nothing revolutionary or progressive about soda taxes and peanut butter bans. In fact, regulations like this are closer to totalitarianism.
Laws against shopping bags, sodas and water bottles are similar to right-wing efforts against birth control and relatively harmless recreational drugs. Where do you draw the line between personal details of people’s lives and that of fair game for government control?
While topics like warning labels on soft drinks sound like dialogue from a Saturday Night Live skit, it’s actually no laughing matter. Once it’s considered politically acceptable to legislate matters such as this, they will eventually go after something that you like. Craving pizza? Better have a couple extra dollars for the new cheese tax.
The most important thing that should be done to preserve San Francisco’s famous tolerance and freedom is to raise awareness and reframe the debate. It should be known that banning and taxing items we all have the personal decision to indulge in is just the same as right-wing efforts to legislate who we can and cannot be sexually attracted to. And if people tell you that caring about this is ridiculous because we have real problems, remind them that what’s actually ridiculous is the fact that politicians care more about controlling rather than practical resolutions.