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How the Happy Meal ban explains San Francisco 

Wednesday, Jan 19 2011

Page 5 of 5

Mirkarimi, who would like to see city government take further steps addressing the use of plastics, the coming headaches of citywide overcrowding, the availability of environmentally sound prescription drug disposal, and preparation for a decline in global oil supplies, acknowledges that the inability of progressives to figure out what is and isn't government's business is a problem. Asked where he draws the line, he is both thoughtful and direct. He doesn't know — and doubts anyone does.

"There is no particular gauge about what is too exotic or strange or symbolic," he says. "I don't think anybody has one — in red or blue states." But, he emphasizes, even in San Francisco, legislators won't ban just anything. "Do you know there are a hundred more of these [ideas] that are in our e-mail inboxes and hearts and minds that we don't act on?" He adds that what seems "too much" today is often mainstream tomorrow. "Plastic bag bans are almost passé right now. There is a likelihood that you're going to start seeing some of these kind of initiatives all over the country."

This is absolutely true. But it's Mirkarimi, Campos, Mar, and the other progressives who are proposing a significantly expanded role for city government. If they don't know where the line is, even in theory, what's to prevent them from continually crossing it? The intense pressure on San Francisco politicians to look busy, to solve the biggest social problem from the smallest of pulpits, to come up with something new, and innovative, and "cutting-edge" — without accountability for the consequences — is as much a recipe for oppressive laws as bad ones.

There's no reason to think that if Eric Mar had been told that we can't ban toys in Happy Meals because that's not what government does, he'd have instead stepped up to the Gordian knot of school lunches. But there's probably a reason so much boundary-pushing legislation is so bad. If San Francisco weren't trying to solve the world's problems, it might be better at fixing Muni and balancing its budget.

A system in which city supervisors think they can do anything, are pressured to produce, and aren't held accountable for results is going to churn out an unacceptable amount of legislative Happy Meals.

This city is working on its own version of billions and billions served. But while McDonald's takes orders, San Francisco gives them.

About The Authors

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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