The Ehrlich boys sure love their summer Slurpees. Even the 50-something Ehrlich kid is not averse to indulging on the way home from those hot summer football practices. (Mom does not share our male addiction but usually lets us slide in the interest of family unity.)
That the Ehrlich Slurpee bonding experience takes place in Annapolis and not New York City is a good thing, as the Big Apple now deals with the latest assault on individual freedom from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The successor to the wildly successful Rudy Giuliani is a billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent. He has flirted with a presidential run. In Maryland, he is widely recognized for his incredibly generous donations (about $800 million) to the Johns Hopkins University, where he paid his way through a combination of college loans and work as a parking lot attendant. Some may recall that he is the author of New York City's trans fat ban of 2006. And today, he seems more intent than ever on limiting individual choice in ways that would make even the Obama administration blush. (Oops, I spoke too soon. It now appears that First Lady Michelle Obama has blessed the mayor's latest dietary edict.)
The edict at issue concerns the mayor's campaign to ban that staple of summertime fun in the Big Apple: sugary drinks over 16 ounces. That's right — one's morning iced coffee, midday Big Gulp, after-workout Gatorade, and early evening venti frappuccino are slated for the chopping block within the confines of America's version of the "Forbidden City."
This aggressive desire to limit dietary choice throughout the city's restaurants, street vendors and stadiums is not a new notion to Mr. Bloomberg. Some may recall a March order wherein perfectly good food donations meant for homeless shelters were outlawed because New York's "food police" would be unable to assess the salt, fat and fiber content of the deliveries. This ban on charitable donations that do not meet NYC's dietary restrictions was proposed by an interagency task force and blessed by the Bloomberg administration. Surprisingly, demands for a mayoral reversal of the "carbs edict" failed to appear on the Occupy protesters' list of demands. Seems dietary restrictions trump personal hygiene with that crowd. And, no, I did not make this story up.
In another instance, Mr. Bloomberg killed a bill that would have lifted the ban on cellphones in New York City public schools. This despite his latter statement that cellphones, (particularly smartphones), increase child safety and are the best way for parents to keep tabs on their teenage children.
There are limits to the mayor's sense of compassion for his people, however. Seems this command and control attitude about the health of New York City residents does not extend to the fiscal health of New York City taxpayers. The world's most famous sanctuary city is not only a safe haven for illegal aliens; the mayor has repeatedly assured his citizens that the presence of so many illegals does not drive up welfare costs imposed on the city's taxpayers. The rationale: Illegals do not fully understand the range of perks available in their sanctuary city, so they fail to avail themselves of public health services for fear of getting reported to immigration authorities. As for what to do about illegal aliens, the mayor simply wants to convert those already here to full citizenship, no penalties or sanctions involved.
Recent tax increases and egregious regulatory measures in Maryland have forced more than a few Free State residents to think long and hard about their family's future residency. Neighboring states such as Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia lead the list of possible new homesteads for families inclined to reject our endless nanny-state indulgences. But one destination most assuredly not on the list of new venues is New York City. Here, the mayor-for-life (or at least the next two years) cannot seem to get enough of government intrusion into one's personal business.
New Yorkers may not have long to wait for the next set of regulatory initiatives. Reports have surfaced about an NYC health board plan to expand the latest ban to include large tubs of popcorn, milkshakes, and certain fruit juices. For this veteran political observer, the betting line is pretty clear: Chick-fil-A appears safe, Wendy's might be able to slide by, but if I were Baskin Robbins …
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding, the author of "Turn this Car Around," a book about national politics, and Maryland chairman for the Romney presidential campaign. His email is email@example.com.