Has "Let's Ban Shit" become the new city motto?
COLUMBIA, Mo 02/10/15 (Beat Byte) -- Has Columbia the Progressive become Columbia the Oppressive? When two conservative Republican state legislators start questioning city policy, that may be a question worth asking.
Just as Columbia is gearing up to ban plastic grocery bags, Rep. Dan Shaul wants the Missouri legislature to ban plastic bag bans. His House Bill 722 would allow something that's becoming an endangered species in CoMo: Choice. Merchants around Missouri could let consumers choose paper or plastic -- by law. Call it "mandatory choice".
Closer to home, Columbia Republican Caleb Rowden wants the state to ban Ban the Box, the most significant piece of crime-fighting legislation Columbia has passed in decades -- or so members of Mayor Bob McDavid's "community violence task force" would have us believe. They proposed and supported the measure -- which prevents local employers from asking about past crimes on job applications -- through to its passage by the Columbia City Council last year.
Banning job application boxes and plastic bags are only two of many prohibitions Council members have considered or passed within the last decade. Banning shit, in fact, has become one of the most popular policy roles at the Council level, perhaps because bans are so easily understood. But all the bans may be pushing Columbia onto the fringes of state -- and even national -- life.
Herein, Columbia's Top Ten Prohibitions, passed or proposed.
10. Uber. Until City Hall enacts what many consider the draconian regulations other taxi companies must abide, using the popular ride share program is PROHIBITED in Columbia.
9. Alcohol in Douglass Park. Roundly panned and ultimately quashed for its racist overtones -- Douglass is a popular hangout for Columbia's black community -- this proposed prohibition helped force First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick from office.
8. Skateboarding. Footloose featured a Midwestern town that had banned dancing. And until it was repealed in 2011, Columbia banned skateboarding downtown. May be the only CoMo ban ever repealed.
7. Small grow operations. Despite a Council bill to decriminalize the practice, growing up to two marijuana plants in Columbia is PROHIBITED. Chadwick's vote to continue the prohibition -- despite a contrary campaign promise -- sparked the movement that led to her ouster.
6. Constituents on social media. Yet another notorious piece of the Ginny Chadwick legacy: banning dissenters and critics from her Facebook page. Columbia School Board Member Jonathan Sessions and City Councilman Fred Schmidt banned this publication from their Facebook pages during the Blight debate; and Mayor Bob McDavid blocked us from his Twitter feed. Perhaps bans are in the water -- or Kool-Aid -- CoMo politicians drink.
5. Lighted signs. Prompted by complaints over the giant AW Smith law offices sign at Broadway and Stadium, the Columbia City Council banned lighted signs.
4. Smoking under 21. In December, the Columbia City Council banned the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to anyone under 21. The Council also added e-cigarettes to the city’s tobacco smoking ban.
4.1 Smoking in public housing. A sub-ban from a lower-level city agency, the Columbia Housing Authority banned smoking in public housing in November. "People ought to be able to smoke in their own house," said Dave Dollens, a Paquin Tower resident and Housing Authority board member. Not if you're poor and live in Columbia.
3. Plastic grocery bags. A PROPOSED prohibition on plastic grocery bags. But if chatter at the Columbia Daily Tribune site is any guide, plastic newspaper wrappers must be included, too. Clogging storm drains and littering streets, they make a far bigger mess hereabouts.
2. The Box. In December, Columbia became the first Missouri city to approve a ban on local employers asking about a job applicant's criminal background. Employers may perform criminal background checks, but only after making a job offer. Sold as a signature piece of crime-fighting legislation -- presumably because employment reduces recidivism -- Ban the Box has mostly been greeted for what it is -- more banned shit.
1. Smoking. The grand-daddy ban of them all, Columbia's smoking ban took effect in 2007. The Columbia City Council banned smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Columbia is one of 23 Missouri cities to enact a comprehensive smoking ban. Missouri is one of ten states with no statewide smoking ban.