The libertarian magazine Reason has published a list of the biggest nanny cities in the country. The results for the big cities on the Pacific Coast are interesting. Portland is caught in a kind of "nanny sandwich" between Seattle and San Francisco. Apparently, the most ecotopian town in the Pacific Northwest has escaped the worst excess of politically correct fussiness.
Reason looked at the nation's top 35 cities and ranked them from worst to best in terms of civil liberties and a host of criteria including food and drug laws, smoking bans, gun control, and how many hookers you can find on Craigslist. By those standards, the least nannying city is, unsurprisingly, Las Vegas. Other non-nanny places in the West include Denver, Kansas City, and Portland. According to Reason, Portland rates well because:
The biggest West Coast metropolis between San Francisco and Seattle has held onto a sense of personal freedom that its once-wacky neighbors have forgotten, keeping a hands-off approach to food and tobacco while recognizing that guns are useful for things other than shooting elk.
Seattle is off the charts these days, nanny-wise, and is the second-worst restrictive city in the country, with only foie gras-banning Chicago ranking higher (though that ban was recently overturned). Author of the Seattle section is my former Seattle Weekly colleague Philip Dawdy, who writes that "Seattle has long had an unhealthy strain of nannyism as well. Washington was one of the first states to prohibit alcohol in the last century, and the city's restrictions on strip clubs and card rooms are legendary. In the last five years, the nanny impulse has gone into hyperdrive."
That hyperdrive includes a sweeping anti-smoking law, crackdowns on music and strip clubs, enforcement of alcohol restriction zones, installation of surveillance cameras in parks, the attempted bonfire ban — the list is endless. And as Dawdy points out, the city's determination to be green has opened up whole new vistas for nanny fiddling.
A lively discussion of Seattle's nannying ways, including an interview with Dawdy and pro- and anti-nanny callers, was aired last week on KUOW-FM's The Conversation, and a podcast can be heard here.
Even P.C. San Francisco is less of a nanny city than Seattle. That's partly due to an even greater tolerance for drugs like marijuana, yet leavened by strong anti-gun laws. Vestiges of Old San Francisco survive. even while the city cracks down on pet owners. According to Reason's analysis:
Baghdad by the Bay is itself the very best on drugs–ground zero for cannabis clubs, with a mayor who calls the drug war an "abject failure" — while also being the very worst on guns and food. The city has banned plastic bags in supermarkets, levied fines against arcade owners who don't check IDs of young people during school hours, mandated the size of pets' water bowls, and required psychics to obtain licenses.
The size of water bowls? Oh please, don't give Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels or the meddling City Council any more ideas. Otherwise, your pygmy goats might find themselves sipping from thimbles.