Friday, October 21, 2005

Madison Recall: Uphill

by Tom Bozzo


Lee Sensenbrenner describes the kickoff meeting in the Cap Times:
On the corner of North and Johnson streets on the city's east side, television news crews were wearing frowns and packing their gear back into their trucks Wednesday night. They had been turned away from the first meeting of a group that's trying to oust Mayor Dave Cieslewicz in a recall election for his role in supporting Madison's smoking ban.
Maybe the recall organizers forgot that there's no such thing as bad publicity?
As a busy bar hummed above them, the group milled around an uncrowded smoke-free basement room, waiting to see if their numbers would grow beyond the dozen or so who had shown up.

Two volunteer consultants from the Citizens for Responsible Government Network - which was founded during the successful efforts to throw several Milwaukee County officials from office - were going to brief them on what they were getting into.

Over 35,000 signatures would be needed to hold a special election. They would have 30 days to collect them. The petitions they would carry had two charges against the mayor, both related to the smoking ban: "Failure to protect civil liberties" and "destroying jobs."
I wonder how many of these people voted for Bush. Locking people up indefinitely without charge: acceptable. Abrograting the pseudo-right to smoke in public: hanging offense!
Upstairs, just after the dinner hour, seats at the bar were nearly full.
Doesn't look good for that 'destroying jobs' charge now, does it?
"Business has been all right," [Travis Julius, owner of the Sandlot bar and grill] said. "We're lucky to have a lot of really faithful neighbors."

He said he thought that there should have been some room for compromise in the smoking ban, and still hopes that Madison could allow some exceptions to the law, like allowing smoking during certain hours.

But regarding the recall campaign against the mayor, he said that "it's tough to make a specific comment on that."

"I don't know that we'll get support in this community to do it," he said. Julius said he would rather have fewer mandates from city hall, but didn't put the blame entirely on the mayor.
Et tu, Julius?
As the meeting in the basement was winding down, Ben Masel, a supporter of Libertarian causes who is running against Sen. Herb Kohl, left and gave the effort little chance of succeeding.

Getting signatures in potentially lousy late fall weather at a bunch of bars would make it all the more difficult, he said.

"You get the same people at each bar," Masel said. "You get a good start and then nothing. And you've got to catch them before the third drink is over, or else it's hopeless."
Is there a Hugh Jass here? Hey everybody, do I have a Hugh Jass?
[Chris] Kliesmet [of CRG] said that they will try to help any group in the state recall public officials as long as a few conditions are met. First, the attempt has to be legal and follow his organization's philosophy of fiscal conservatism and anti-corruption.

"If you want to recall someone for supporting stem cell research," he said, "that's not us." He said the smoking ban met the criteria because it hurt businesses.
Not exactly demonstrated. If the policy ends up increasing business overall, at some cost to a specific group of taverns, does it "hurt businesses?"
There is a "no carpet bagging rule," Kliesmet said, and having Heather Mees, a manager for a bar in the town of Burke, organize the effort locally satisfied that.
I'm curious as to Mees's beef. The principle of it? Are they're not seeing enough smoking refugees outside the city?
The CRG Network board also has to approve the effort and, lastly, Kliesmet said, "there's the 'Are You Serious?' rule."

"If it's a bad idea," Kliesmet said later, "people won't sign the petitions."
Quite. Just say no thank you.
Why are you so worried? Even if the signatures are collected, which is unlikely, the likelihood of unseating Mayor "I Know What's Best For You" is very low.

Secondly, if smoke-free policies increase business, why haven't bars already gone smoke free? Bar owners would be stupid to allow smoking if they could increase their profits by banning smoking.

A big test of the smoking ban will be this winter. I don't know how many good bar patrons who smoke will be willing to stand outside in the -20 ˚F air while they get their fix. They might sign the petition just because they are so pissed about having to stand in the cold - thus cold weather might be an advantage.

Finally, your compassion is lacking for the specific bar owners who will be negatively affected (and surely some will be, even if it is a minority). You act like it doesn't matter if a few people's businesses/lives are ruined. Most bars are 'local' businesses and many are family businesses, and your response to them seems to be "Go Cheney Yourself". Where is the love?
What, me worried? I'm just applying the Rovian lesson of not failing to kick your opponents just because they're down. Plus, it's something to blog about.

On the second point, the sort of argument I've seen is basically that unilateral disarmament is a bad idea.

As for the third, if the smokers are smart, they'll learn something from the misery of freezing to death to smoke (the flipside experience of sweltering outside to smoke during the D.C. summer helped induce my penultimate quit attempt), though the smokers who worked for one of the former tenants in our building by and large didn't seem to take much of a hint.

I'm most sympathetic to your last point with respect to the workers, though I'd previously addressed it in part by noting that bar and restaurant jobs naturally come and go with high frequency (not least because of high failure rates of the establishments), and it's not exactly difficult to replace one bar/restaurant job with another. That may seem harsh, but are you going to assert that Jane Doe has a specific right to tend bar at the Foo Tavern? I'm less sympathetic with tavern owners who run establishments with such weak customer loyalty.
Ms. Mees's objection, clearly, is that all of the smokers who used to stay in Madison are now going home, endangering her health and raising her medical insurance premia.
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