By Scott Tibbs. WFHB Firehouse Feedback radio editorial, October 18, 2005.
With Herb Kilmer out of town, County Commissioners Joyce Poling and Iris Kiesling voted on October 14 to amend the county smoking ban to include not only all "public places", but all workplaces as well. Home-based businesses are excluded from the ban. Poling is a Republican and Kiesling is a Democrat.
Once again, local government has moved to restrict private property rights, deciding for property owners whether or not they can allow a legal substance to be used on their property. No one is forced to go into a "public place" that allows smoking, and no one is forced to work in an establishment that allows the use of tobacco. Since no one is being forced to be exposed to second-hands smoke, government should not be banning its use.
I question labeling restaurants or other such establishments as "public places" if those businesses sit on private property. No one has an absolute right to be on another person's private property. To supporters of the ban, I ask: Why is it your prerogative to decide what will or will not be allowed at a business you patronize? Why can you not respect individual choice?
Some of the people who advocated for the ordinance were General Electric employees, who complained about having to work next to smokers and their inability to get the plant to ban smoking. Since they could not get their way by using persuasion, they lobbied the nanny state to come in and restrict the liberty of their fellow employees to consume a legal substance and the private property rights of their employer to run the business the way G.E. sees fit.
A better solution would be to allow the free market to work. If the people of Monroe County really want to eat, shop and work in a smoke-free environment, they will patronize the businesses that refuse to allow smoking. The city smoking ban will benefit me personally the next time I go see Junior Brown in concert at the Bluebird, as I will not need to smell the stench of cigarette smoke. However, I do not have the moral right to use the nanny state to force my will upon private property owners.
In addition to expanding the ban, the county also quadrupled fines for violators. As Monroe County Libertarian Party chair Margaret Fette said at the meeting, this is nothing more than a stealth way to raise tax revenues for the county.
Anti-smoking activists argue that the ban should be the same as the city ban to avoid "confusion" and argue that the ban has little or no economic impact. On the first point, is it really that difficult to distinguish between the city and county bans? Is it so hard for businesses, who already abide by a plethora of federal, state and local regulations, to know the differences between a city smoking ban and a county smoking ban? On the second point, that an infringement on private property rights does not cause "harm" does not justify that restriction on liberty. The principles of individual liberty, freedom of choice, and private property rights remain the same regardless of economic impact.
Once again, Joyce Poling has proven herself to be a Republican in name only. She voted earlier this year to re-appoint Richard Martin to the county Planning Commission and to place Leftist radical Greg Travis on the county Economic Development Commission, both times siding with Democrat Iris Kiesling against fellow Republican Herb Kilmer. At what point do Republicans decide that enough is enough and support a challenger to Poling in the Republican Primary?
There was talk of a primary challenge to Poling in 2004, but many Republicans opposed such a move. One such Republican was Kilmer, who Poling has consistently undermined in votes that come before the County Commissioners. As it was, Poling barely defeated Michael "Moss" Englert in the general election, earning the honor of being the only Republican to win an contested race in Monroe County last year. Had the Democrats nominated a more moderate candidate instead of a former tree-sitter, they would likely control the County Commissioners.
With Poling voting to place Martin and Travis on county boards and undermining private property rights with the expanded smoking ban, would we have been better off with Englert as commissioner? While conservatives may disagree with Englert 98% of the time, we always know where he stands and how he will vote. He does not pretend to be a Republican. In 2008, conservative Republicans need to say "no more" to Joyce Poling, a Republican in name only.