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Friday, July 13, 2007

Too many aldermen in the kitchen

Posted By on 07.13.07 at 02:56 PM

Berny Stone, alderman of the 50th Ward, recently introduced an ordinance that would repeal the city's ban on selling foie gras, the delicacy made from the livers of force-fed ducks or geese. Several other aldermen have sponsored a separate ordinance that would also repeal the ban. Here's what happened when I asked Stone for an update on the measures this week:

So foie gras hasn’t come up in committee yet.

STONE: There’s two ordinances. One may be in Rules [the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics]. Mine is in Budget, because the committee’s name is Budget and Administration [actually, Budget and Government Operations]. And you’ve got to understand, the repeal of that ordinance has absolutely nothing to do with [the Committee on Health, which held last year's debate on the foie gras ban]. The question involved in Budget is whether the City Council had the right, the authority, really, to pass it. Because the reason I questioned whether we had the right to pass it was that we have the authority to pass matters that affect the health and safety of people, but do we have the authority to pass ordinances with respect to nonhumans?

There are other animal cruelty laws. Dog-fighting laws.

STONE: Yeah, but those have an effect on human beings. Basically we control in particular dogs and cats so we can control their effect on human beings.

There’s no city ordinance that when someone’s beating a dog with a stick they can be arrested? There’s no city ordinance—

STONE: Yeah, there is. There is, I’m sure. There’s animal cruelty ordinances—yes, there are.

But this is different, you’re arguing.

STONE: First of all, we have no business in everybody’s kitchen. I’m opposed to all these crazy ordinances my colleagues have been introducing, like the trans-fat ordinance. Why are we in people’s kitchens? Next thing I’m going to tell you what soap you can use in your bathroom, or what toothpaste you can use. I mean, that really shouldn’t be our—unless it’s poisonous and affects your health, we have no business in that area.

Well, I guess the argument with trans fats is that they are bad for your health and that they are essentially poisonous.

STONE: We don’t know that. How many times do the authorities tell us, "Bacon is bad for you and you can get cancer if it’s crisp bacon," then they come out and say, "Well, we were mistaken—it isn’t." Or, "Artificial sweeteners—we’ve experiemented and it killed the experimental animals." Of course what they didn’t tell you was that the amount of sweetener they gave the animal was the equivalent to a human being using 350 packages of Sweet 'N Low. [He turns to 40th Ward alderman Patrick O’Connor, who walked in with a new goatee.] Oh, I didn’t recognize you with the beard.

O’CONNOR: Yeah, it’s just a summer thing.

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