Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fourth Ward is a Star in The Star

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, common sense. What a breath of fresh air this is, especially in view of the idiocy perpetrated last week.

Michelle Distler, a Fourth Ward Councilperson from Shawnee had her views of smoking bans published in the Kansas City Star on 4/30/07. The link is

Also, this commentary originally appeared in the Shawnee/Lenexa Sun on 4/26/07. At least we still have freedom of speech.

Sometimes those links don't work, so I'll quote the article here:

AS I SEE IT City bans deny people their constitutional rights

Special to The Star

As an asthmatic, I initially thought smoking bans were a good idea. I still think they are, but not one that the government should implement. It is a decision that is best left to the individual owners and their customers through the power of the purse.

Upon further thought on the matter, I remembered taking my oath of office and swearing to uphold the Constitution. Although there is nothing stated specifically to the rights of smokers or nonsmokers, the Constitution does speak directly to individual liberties and private property rights. I do not want to open Pandora’s Box and give the government undue power and control over our lives.

Communities across the country are wrestling with the dilemma of whether to enforce smoking bans, and unfortunately we’re quickly losing sight of our obligation as a society to protect civil rights in the process.

The constitutional purpose of our government is to promote commerce, build roads, protect us from foreign invasion and protect individual rights. This includes property rights. Any act to the contrary is an outright violation of the Constitution. A smoking ban is a violation of property rights, period.

The Constitution was written in such a manner to specifically limit the power and scope of government to preserve our individual rights — rights that are being eroded daily with a variety of seemingly small encroachments, such as the smoking ban.

Just as eminent domain started as a good idea and a means to acquire private land for the public good, it has become extremely problematic when untrustworthy government officials and self-serving developers define what is in the public’s best interest. Tax increment financing also began as an effective means to restore blighted areas until insiders began using it to increase their personal profits.

Everyone has the freedom of choice to go into any building where people are allowed to smoke or not smoke. But no one has the inalienable right to go into a privately owned business and demand that it be smoke-free or demand that a smoke-free building allow smoking.
No one should have the right to use government to force an owner to make his property smoke-free. In doing so, all our rights become easier targets for anyone disagreeing with, or who is offended by, the practice of our personal freedoms.

In the long run, this is far more dangerous than secondhand smoke ever could be.
Supply and demand drives free enterprise, and I think the best way to implement a smoking ban is to support those establishments that cater best to your desires. I think we must remember that whether as employees or patrons to businesses, we are the "guests" of the property owners.

My concern is for the property rights of all Shawnee residents and business owners.
Michelle R. Distler serves on the Shawnee City Council.