A week or so back the PSN published an article about Sierra Madre's City Council passing downtown smoking restrictions. And while the piece itself was kind of short and not all that informative, the on-line commenting to it exploded, and now numbers over 74 unique posts! A burst of passion and invective that rivals even what we saw here on this site. And wouldn't you know it, taking the lead is one Josh Strike, identified there as being from Chino Hills (?), CA.
"Well, the grouchy old men, the 'stroller moms' and their screaming children got what they wanted. Appeals to the Council on behalf of personal liberties fell on deaf ears -- they had their minds made up already, and were probably paid off by the paid activists who showed up in droves from beyond city limits to peddle their unrelated junk science. It's just one more step in turning the whole country into a child-proofed playpen, and driving out artists and intellectuals."
I guess we can assume that on Planet Josh all artists and intellectuals smoke cigarettes, and everyone else is lives in a child-proofed playpen. Proving once again that when it comes to being unintentionally hilarious, the Joshster is truly a master of the art.
(Of course, when you comment on the PSN message board it does automatically note the town of the ISP where the post originated. Whether you like it or not. A word of warning to you folks out there hoping to pose as a Sierra Madreano when your service provider is actually located somewhere in the Inland Empire.)
But there is something posted on the PSN board that is actually of more than just mordant interest. One poster, identifying himself as "anonamous" (from Brea), had this to say:
"I'm a business owner in the downtown area of Sierra Madre. While I know that smoking is very bad for your health, I don't feel we have the right to legislate away the right of those who wish to smoke. We business owners should have been given the ability to determine when and where smokers can light up. This ordinance as drawn will not do anything to help my business and only hurt it. Women with their children will still have to walk through smokers to get to my front door, only the smokers will be 25 feet further up or down the sidewalk. As for the line that we may have a reduction in business, but it will only last a short time (based on other cities results), it should be noted that as fun and beautiful as Sierra Madre is, we are not a high tourist traffic area. When people go away, it takes a herculean effort to bring more in. Our Chamber of Commerce works very hard to bring people into the city, but the survey done by them wasn't even mentioned in the deliberations. The City Council had already made up its mind. The act of having a city council meeting on this issue was a farce. A local ballot initiative is needed to either remove this un-necessary and unwanted (by the businesses) regulation from our books or modify it to include all areas of downtown, not just the eating establishments."
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this just about the first time we've actually heard from a Sierra Madre business owner on this topic? They certainly weren't saying much before the vote, none of them were interviewed on the topic in any of the local newspapers, and with the exception of that one rather eccentric woman ranting about City Council folks giving out grades to people speaking from the audience podium, they were pretty much AWOL for the City Council meetings as well.
So here's something that has puzzled me for the last week or so. Did the Sierra Madre business owners that were opposed smoking restrictions ever get together and work out some kind of strategy? And if so, can anybody please tell me exactly what it was? Besides hanging the military poster in the window at Beantown?
Right now I have no choice but to believe that somebody sold these guys a bill of goods. As far as I can tell they were somehow convinced to turn the campaign over to the Stop the Sierra Madre Smoking Ban kids and stand back. Because for all intents and purposes that is exactly what they did. Which has got to have been just about the worst strategy imaginable. And while the smoker activists in the "Stop the Smoking Ban" group were certainly entitled to both their opinions and the right do voice them, on a political level I personally can't think of a more unappealing group of people to stake the supposed well-being of Sierra Madre's businesses on.
That the final City Council vote was 5 to zero in favor of restrictions seems now, in hindsight, an obvious outcome. And while all the City Council members cited the health considerations, I suspect that for at least a couple of them the real reason for their vote is that the politics just weren't there for stopping restrictions.
So were the business owners serious about defeating smoking restrictions? Were they somehow sold on the disastrous idea of letting the kids take the lead on this rather than doing it themselves? I can't help but think that if 10 or so local business owners had shown up at last week's City Council meeting and spoken about their opposition to smoking restrictions and why, the results could have been quite different.
Instead they left it to the Josh Strikes of this world to speak for them. Making the outcome inevitable.