At a time of unemployment and stagnant economic activity you would think government officials would be happy to see a new business move into a soon-to-be vacant lot in their town. Not so on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Here the mayor, school district and PTA are all opposing a new convenience store, which would be near McKinley Middle School, that was narrowly approved by the city’s Planning Commission. Some of their concerns have to do with traffic and safety concerns about the new Kum & Go store but opposition seems to stem largely from government paternalism and health busy-bodyism.
According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article, Mary Meisterling, vice president of the Cedar Rapids school board, told the commission members that “the store’s fare of alcohol, tobacco and snack foods was not appropriate in such proximity to the more than 600 middle-school students.” In their letter of opposition, the McKinley PTA urged the Planning Commission to “consider the negative impact this store will have on the safety, health and education of McKinley’s students and not allow this proposed development to proceed.” [Emphasis added.]
Officials’ efforts to ban a completely lawful business in an effort to lessen the chances that some students might have to realize that Budweiser, Marlboro, and Kit Kats exist would appear to be an attempt by them to create a “reality-free zone” around the school. This no doubt won’t work any better than any of the other prohibition zones that they’ve erected around our schools. The Gun-Free School Zones Acts of 1990 and 1996 have created known concentrations of disarmed victims and allowed unfettered rampages like the Columbine shootings to occur. When officials came up with the Drug-Free School Zone idea, the fact that efforts to turn the entire rest of the country into a drug-free zone had been an abysmal failure was apparently lost on them.
Planning Commission member Gloria Frost (who voted to allow the new store) first “asked if the company promised to help youngsters coming into the store make ‘good decisions,’ [and] was willing to work with school officials.” Since when is helping youngsters make “good decisions” the job of a retail store? Aren’t there things like families, Cub Scouts and churches for that? Is it a store or a damned social program?
We all want kids to be safe and healthy. I’m a parent, I get it. But sooner or latter we have to admit that they exist on the same planet as the rest of us. They will be confronted with Lay’s Wavy Potato Chips and Mountain Dew. Deal with it!