Every morning I get up before dawn and sit on the outside porch with my dogs, my coffee and my cigar. I read the paper, say my prayers, think of somebody I might be able to help, and plan my day. It’s my quiet time and every night, just before I go to bed, I sit on the same porch in the stillness with my dogs, my cigar and a little whiskey and reflect on what I’ve done, what I should have done, and what I still hope to do.
On Saturday morning, as I read the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, there appeared a story on smoking in public parks and open spaces. Larry Zehnder, Chattanooga’s director of parks and recreation, said he didn’t think it was a problem. But Kim White, the CEO of the River City Company, said she believed it should be banned.
"We're known for being environmentally friendly. ... Something like that would make us known as a forward-looking community," she was quoted.
All that the article did was give me another reason not to admire Kim White. Too often people like the “River City Queen” don’t get the fact that to foist their personal prejudices on others is just flat-out stupid. Kim White came under my glare several years ago when she spearheaded outrageous raises for Erlanger Hospital executives while ignoring 4,000 other employees and then she sparked the hospital trustees to infamously hand the hospital’s just-fired CEO three-quarters of a million in severance pay.
Admittedly, I’ve got Kim White down in my book as a real lulu. So now “Miss Busy-Body” comes along talking about us being “environmentally friendly” when – in fact – she’s not being friendly at all to thousands in our community who choose to smoke in a way that isn’t harmful to any other citizen. When you start legislating morality, you’ve got problems that ain’t got a thing to do with sin.
The city of East Ridge is now just a puff away from banning smoking in all public places. Are you kidding me? All that banning anything ever does is make the people who are banned mad. Oh, the tree-huggers and the white-wine crowd will tell the commissioners they are so wonderful but all it really does is send a blatant message to anybody who smokes not to go to East Ridge. That’s the truth and the dummies who make unnecessary rules -- that never seem to affect them personally -- just never seem to get it.
Look at Red Bank. There are literally hundreds of motorists who, even today, will not drive through that community on a bet. The speed cameras and the arrogance of a previous city administration absolutely clobbered the town. Red Bank very plainly let people know they were not welcome – speed cameras and entrapment will do that -- and, sure enough, many don’t go there like they once did.
Now East Ridge has the bozo fever. The decay of dead businesses down Ringgold Road is so glaring it is tragic, but – unbelievably – the East Ridge fathers have just launched a senseless anti-smoking campaign that (one) ain’t going to better the town at all, (two) will drive away anyone who partakes in tobacco and (three) will cause voters who are fed up with meddlesome government to vow they’ll vote the meddlers out as fast as they possibly can.
That’s not good politics – that’s flat-out dumb. Everybody knows you can’t legislate behavior but East Ridge, so desperate for revival they are putting up fireworks stands, is sending the message to smokers and their friends stay away and go elsewhere. How East Ridge will enforce the proposed ban promises to be as comical as the commission’s decision to be unfriendly to tobacco users. What’s next -- banning all tobacco sales? Let me know how Prohibition works for you.
The Riverbend Festival banned smoking this year and so did Kim White’s Miller Plaza, where the Nightfall series is held (Her shadowy River City Company owns the park). The thing any entertainment venue needs to remember is that maybe there are others who feel as I do – I don’t go where I am not welcome. And I don’t need any do-gooder telling me how to run my life.
So here’s my point: why pick a fight if all you are going to accomplish is make some people mad? I’m the first to admit I shouldn’t smoke, but I enjoy it. It’s been my experience that most of the zealots who try to push people around have a few warts, too, and if you’ll just bide your time it is amusing to watch them stumble.
Kim White, in suggesting smoking be banned at other sites in the city, said city leaders might be “very surprised” at the residents' response to a smoking ban. Perhaps she will be “very surprised” to know that as I read her comments Saturday morning, I muttered “What an idiot … ” and my dog Scooter, sitting beside my rocking chair, looked at me as though I had just said the most profound thing he had ever heard.
Good leaders never use personal prejudice as a tool. And banning anything in a land of freedom is never going to work.