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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Check report cards carefully

Uploaded: Jan 30, 2013
Non-governmental agencies love to issue report cards—they are an easy way to attract media attention and well as apply some heat or give praise to elected officials.
So it was with the American Lung Association which awarded Dublin an "A" grade for its anti-smoking ordinances. The criteria included whether cities regulated outdoor air for smoking, the requirement to create and permanently maintain smoke-free housing units and ordinances that reduce the sale of tobacco products.
Notably, the other Tri-Valley cities received much lower grades from the association: San Ramon, Pleasanton and Livermore all received Ds, while Danville received an F.
Perhaps, those same cities would have received an A from an organization with a libertarian bent or one that emphasizes individual freedom and responsibility.
It never ceases to amaze how much smokers are demonized for their decision to partake in a legal activity. Tobacco products are the favorite sin tax with tax revenues often utilized for purposes that have little or anything to do with health outcomes of smoking. For instance, in California, the First Five program that focuses on children from in their mom's womb to five years of age has been funded entirely by an increase in the tax on cigarettes.
It is an easy vote for many—they don't smoke and most of us want to help children, particularly those living in more challenging environments.
The question is whether it is an appropriate tax and, more importantly, an appropriate use of a tax on that item is rarely asked or answered.
For the record, I have never smoked cigarettes and enjoy a very occasional cigar on the golf course.
The report cards extend well beyond the air folks. Outfits ranging from the state chamber of commerce to the Sierra Club and most interests in between issue their opinions based on criteria they decide are important. Those report cards are some means of comparison, but it's hardly worth tossing four of the five Tri-Valley cities under the bus because the lung folks say so.
For instance, rampant gun control activists may well target a legislator with an A grade from the National Rifle Association, while supporters of the Second Amendment would likely have the opposite opinion. What's lost in the report cards is both any nuance as well as what were the key criteria.

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