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Question of the Day

Monday, Jun 30, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

* Reason magazine recently ranked how the 35 most-populous cities in the U.S. balance individual freedom with government paternalism.

They ranked the cities on how much freedom they afford their residents to indulge in alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, gambling and food.

The result

The sad news, Chicagoans, is that your town came in dead last. And it wasn’t even close.

Chicago reigns supreme when it comes to treating its citizens like children (Las Vegas topped our rankings as America’s freest city). Chicagoans pay the second-highest cigarette tax in the country, and the sixth-highest tax on alcohol.

Chicago has more traffic-light cameras than any city in America (despite studies questioning their effectiveness), restricts cell phone use while driving, and it’s quickly moving toward a creepy public surveillance system similar to London’s.

* If you could repeal any Chicago ordinance what would it be?

- Posted by Kevin Fanning        

  1. - A commenter - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 11:48 am:

    Stupid ban on cellphones.

  2. - Just Observing - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 11:49 am:

    It’s not just Chicago… this is happending in a lot of the suburbs too. You have moronic elected officials that think they know better than other citizens and they have to step in as a mother. Unfortunately, too often, people accept, and in some cases, embrace, this form of nanny government.

  3. - The Doc - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 11:52 am:

    The real-estate transfer tax is a mind-boggling regressive tax that inhibits both residential and commercial development, especially in areas that are in need of such development. Understanding that the recent increase was part of the RTA bailout to shore up pension obligations, its mere existence typifies the misguided agendas of the Daley-Stroger regime.

  4. - Cal Skinner - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:05 pm:

    I’m not sure it’s an ordinance, but repealing Home Rule would get rid of a lot of taxes.

  5. - DumberThanULook - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:09 pm:

    Wow, I can’t agree more with reason magazine. I really miss the gang and crime infested days of yesteryear. I would much rather walk down the street swinging my Tommy gun, shooting police officers I can’t bribe, and hustling protection payments from the local storefronts.

  6. - Speaking At Will - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:09 pm:

    This is why I could never live in Chicago. I like to visit, but am happy to live in Southern Illinois. If only the size of government in chicago wouldnt bleed over to the rest of the state.

  7. - Kevin Fanning - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:09 pm:

    lol DumberthanULook

  8. - Ghost - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:10 pm:

    reform by repeal?

    The good folks of chicago keep electing these officials. Repeal the gas tax, permanetly.

  9. - get real - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:12 pm:

    I would like to add an ordinance that would have term limits for all elected officials

  10. - Greg - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:14 pm:

    Stop, Dumber, your wit is killing us.

  11. - Speaking At Will - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:19 pm:


    As if that isnt present day chicago.

    Look at the numbers, Chicago is more dangerous for its citizens today than it ever was during the says of Al Capone “Swinging a Tommy Gun.”

    I love the way that once more government is put in place everyone forgets that things were ever done another way. But for some more rules and regulations always seems to be a good idea.

    To answer the question, dont repeal any of them, voters get the government they deserve.

  12. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:20 pm:

    ==In many cities, it may soon be easier to smoke a joint than a cigarette.==

    far out, man!

  13. - The Man on 5 - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:22 pm:

    That silly, silly, silly law about the City Council having to approve my ordinances. Not that it’s a problem, it’s just an inconvenience.

  14. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:27 pm:

    Red Light Cameras

    Research is showing that the tax motivated systems cause more accidents that they prevent.

    Should only be used if the accident record warrants it.

  15. - Sinister - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:32 pm:

    Reduce the amount of wards from 50 to 25. Some of these alderman are useless.

  16. - Up For Grabs - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:43 pm:

    Municipal elections. Why bother? Gangs in one form or another are in charge of everything.

  17. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 12:54 pm:

    Get rid of all the cameras!

    Cops walking around is much better than cameras, which lull people into a false sense of security. (IMHO)

  18. - yinn - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 1:02 pm:

    Cal Skinner is right. Home Rule in Illinois allows municipalities to do just about whatever the heck they want. Until and unless it’s fixed (via changing the Illinois Constitution) the only way to put a check on local governmental intrusion, taxes and debt obligations is to repeal it.

    As I understand it, the disliked transfer tax cannot be imposed by a non-home rule community.

  19. - Napoleon has left the building - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 1:03 pm:

    I would repeal the repeal of the ban on foigras. I personally think the food is barbaric, tasteless and disgusting. I see nothing humorous in the city taking a stand in the direction that makes us a more humane society. Just because few snobby chefs think it is ridiculous, they repealed the ban when 99% of Chicagoans never have and never would eat it? Give me a break.

  20. - Levois - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 1:33 pm:

    I’d repealed the ordinances where women aren’t allowed to wear any clothing that exposes their ankles and where spitting on the sidewalk is illegal.

  21. - jerry 101 - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 1:56 pm:

    I’d repeal the ordinance that says that Mayor Daley will not now or ever have viable opposition in a mayoral race.

  22. - jerry 101 - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 1:59 pm:

    As a Chicagoan, I’m all for the transfer tax.

    I like it when I can take the CTA places.

    It’s nice not to be stuck in McHenry County where I can’t get anywhere without an automobile.

  23. - Heartless Libertarian - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 2:31 pm:

    Napoleon, yes. I know, your morality should be applied as law everywhere, right? Guns, foigras, free speech, SUVs, marijuana can all be taken care of with laws… just because you find stuff immoral, offensive, or an inconvenience.

    Now, to the point, repeal the “sin” taxes, starting with cigarettes and working toward alcohol and state-supported gambling… not to mention the Illinois Communist Indoor Air act of 2007.

    And Jerry, just buy a freakin’ hybrid already. Or are you more of a scooter guy?

  24. - He Gone - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 2:47 pm:

    How about getting rid of the ordinance that allows Aldermen to carry a firearm. I read that the other day and thought it was a joke. Why do they need to carry guns??? I thought Mayor Daley was against that. Is he talking out of both sides of his mouth again?

  25. - fed up - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 2:53 pm:

    I would repeal the power sharing araingement that made daley king, gave Ed Burke control of the court system and made the cook co public works a stroger family jobs program.

  26. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 2:54 pm:

    The problem isn’t the elitist attitude currently behind most cities’ nanny state mentality - the problem is that the city started shrinking, so politician’s mindset went from making money to fighting over the last dollar. This mindset then branched over into every facet of city life.

    What we see in Chicago is what happens when a city is dying - those in charge start to manage every facet of city life out of fear that everything is out of control. They couldn’t control businesses leaving the City, so they try to exert control over other minutia. We can see this same mentality in failing businesses too, when businesses start to fail, they start monitoring paper usage, lunch hours, parking spaces, computer usage, etc.

    In both cases is it attempts to control decisions in order to feel in control as business slips away.

  27. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 2:58 pm:

    I always found it ironic that in the worst neighborhood in the country-(Englewood-Chicago)
    Law abiding citizens cannot legally own a handgun to protect themselves while their entire neighborhood is being shot to pieces. I would repeal the gun ban for law abiding citizens.

  28. - ChampaignDweller - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 3:06 pm:

    While it’s not an ordinance, repeal of the Home Rule authority would require government to listen better to voters, I think, rather than do whatever the heck they please.

  29. - VivaLFuego - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 3:10 pm:

    I think the article had a more plausible take on it, which is that the relative health of the city means a lot of legislators with idle time to make pointless legislation. It’s not that there haven’t been serious problems to deal with, of course, but for a variety of reasons (e.g. not being a governmental problem, or being more pleasant to just pretend the problem didn’t exist) they aren’t on the forefront so the law-makers busy themselves with controlling minutia like foie gras.

    Given the amount of higher-income residential construction in the city, the financial trouble in city and county government have been largely self-made by the politicians’ endless self-flagellation over our incredibly low property tax rates and assessments.

  30. - Skeeter - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 3:28 pm:

    With regard to “the city is dying” — clearly, you don’t live here. One of the biggest problems I face is that I have to keep crossing the street, since construction barricades close sidewalks. That’s not the sign of a “dying city.”

    That being said: Although the cell phone bad is the dumbest [are we just going to start listing driver distractions and bar every one?], the hand gun ban is the one that will be expensive to defend. Expensive is worse than dumb, so if it was up to me, the handgun ban goes.

    A final note — on the same day that story appeared, our friends over at Illinois Review was asking the City to crack down on all sorts of minor laws related to the Pride parade. Which shows that “conservative” depends on the law in question. People don’t necessarily want “freedom.” They want freedom for stuff they like.

  31. - Jake from Elwood - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 3:45 pm:

    No need to repeal the gun law. . . just wait a year and it will be declared unconsitutional.
    I think that proposed ordinance permitting the dogs to join their owners at the restaurants is peculiar. Did it pass?

  32. - One of the 35 - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 3:55 pm:

    In spite of this regulation, Chicago remains a world class city that works, when many others don’t. Complain all you like, but Chicago compares favorably in many other category rankings. Regulatory environment is just one of many ways to guage livability. And Home rule is not necessarily bad in and of itself. If you elect inept people you get bad government, Home Rule notwithstanding.

  33. - Anon - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 3:56 pm:

    I would repeal the “Mayor for life” ordinance.

  34. - BannedForLife - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 3:58 pm:

    I can’t find the original article on the Reason mag website. Does anyone have a link?

  35. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 4:04 pm:


    I like a bunch of things, from foie gras to the Gay Pride parade to semi-automatic weapons. I guess I can’t ever be a liberal or a conservative.

  36. - Undercover - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 4:06 pm:

    I never thought I would ever use the term “nanny state” until I moved to Chicago late last year. The cell phone ban, constantly changing parking restrictions, the ridiculously high sales tax, and those GODAWFUL red light cameras are enough to cause me to reconsider the suburbs. Add to that the higher cost of gas, the noticeable bad quality of the air and stenches of the sewer system, the fact that you couldn’t pay me enough to put my kids in Chicago Public Schools, the traffic and the crime…

    More often than not, I wonder why in the world anyone lives here if they don’t have to.

    Nanny state indeed. When you have idiots like Ald. Bob Fioretti trying to ban little plastic baggies, you really have to wonder.

  37. - Steve - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 4:25 pm:

    Repeal the city residency requirement for city workers.Many of them would then leave the city,and then they couldn’t vote for the same politicians who’ve been running Chicago into the ground.Remember,the drive for more taxes and regulations is the city workers who benefit from big government.

  38. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 4:36 pm:

    I wanted to mention that many of the nanny state laws are really corruption taxes. The red light cameras, the intolerable parking regulations, zones and restrictions are just ways to fine citizens so they can employ cronies.

    Whenever the Mayor makes a bold announcement to better the City by cracking down on something, there is always someone in the background drooling over the profits.

    I experienced a perfect example of this phenomena this weekend as I took a group of children to the Lincoln Park Zoo and got caught in the traffic from people going to the Gay Parade. There was a group of 6 traffic control aides standing on one corner trying to direct traffic but each not knowing what the other was doing. 6 aides, within 30 feet of each other not even working in unison.

    It is obvious this is some type of make work program designed to employ and appease a voting block. If funding gets low they just send the aides out with their parking ticket books and refill the coffers.

    The nanny state is really the price we pay for accepting corruption.

  39. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 4:51 pm:

    Can we repeal the designated hitter rule? I never could understand why some teams need 10 players to play a game designed for nine.

  40. - Ken in Aurora - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 5:35 pm:

    I don’t even know where to start. If you had asked me this a month ago I would have said the asinine handgun ban, but with that now likely going down in flames… probably red light cameras.

  41. - Bill S. Preston, Esq. - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 5:50 pm:

    Definitely the cameras. Eye in the sky cameras, red light cameras, all of the cameras.

  42. - Emily Booth - Monday, Jun 30, 08 @ 6:54 pm:

    Here’s what I would like to see in Chicago: 1. a wildlife rescue center on the north side near the Chicago River similar to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center of DuPage County but not under the stewardship of Cook County. I emailed my alderman, the head of Chicago Animal Control, et. al. and did not get a response; I would like to see home economics and woodshop back in the Chicago Public Schools so kids can learn skills that can teach them how to be resourceful; I would like to see more free music schools like the People’s Music School in Uptown and more ice skating rinks (there are only 3 indoor rinks in Chicago

    I want Marshall Fields back.

    How about it, Mayor?

  43. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jul 1, 08 @ 8:37 am:

    Unlike the years when Chicago was booming, today the largest employers in Chicago are taxpayer based. So instead of generating income, they consume income. We reached a tipping point a couple of generation ago when big industry folded. When Sears Tower was finished in 1974, so was those businesses looking for the “next big thing” staying in Chicago.

    As NIMBY stiffled infastructure to continue the City’s reason for existence, (the center of North America), local politicians became nannies as those families with the ability to leave, started to. After fifty years the demographics of Chicago are vastly different. Families do not move here, and married couples leave when their first child is born. Chicago’s Public Schools became atrocious and have stayed that way.

    Local officials are now dealing with nanny state issues, instead of growth issues, as their voter base becomes disconnected. Without an industrial base to hire those without post-high school education, or less, fully functioning adults fail to find employment in Chicago. Without a decent public school system and a fracturing family structure within the neighborhoods, those still living in Chicago are unable to raise families of their own.

    A city without children is a retirement village. Chicago cannot be Sun City Midwest. Additionally, Chicago was not meant to become a taxpayer-funded city. But childlessness, or working in taxpayer-based organizations does not turn around a city that has been shrinking since 1945.

    That is why we see city ordinances removing liberties - Chicagoans accept that resources are limited and they are living in a sinking ship.

  44. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jul 1, 08 @ 9:36 am:


    You need to do some more reading. Your last post was entirely wrong.

    As I note in my blog, According to Crane’s, the vacancy rate for downtown commercial space just hit a five year low. For what it is worth, with all the constructon a glut of new space should go on line in 2011, so that rate might go back up then. In the meantime, there is a lot of demand for office space and a lot of high paying construction jobs. Most cities would love to have that situation.

    Also, your “family” thing is news to me. I’m raising a family in Chicago and, with the possible exception of St. Bart, wouldn’t raise a family anywhere else. My twins have plenty of other kids in the neighborhood.

    Seriously, you need to get some new sources for information, since your current sources are completely wrong.

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