John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Cities ban things! Also in this week's edition: D.C. outlaws Occupy protesters and large dogs are no longer welcome in one Chinese city.
Welcome to the inaugural edition of our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world. Without further ado!
• Officials at Boston's transit agency must have had raging hangovers on Tuesday, because they voted to ban all alcohol advertising on buses, trains, and subways. The startlingly sober move comes as the state pushes its own anti-booze ad campaign forward – although it might also have something to do with the ignominy of being named the "Drunkest City in America" by the Daily Beast, with 20 percent of the population classified as binge drinkers. Hey, maybe that will change now that people won't have to look at so many enticing liquor ads? Sure. The Boston Globe notes that this ban will cost the city $1.5 million in lost revenue this year. When it goes into effect in July, the only "cool" cities that allow beer ads on public transit will be New York and Chicago.
• Oakland and Berkeley residents will no longer have the environment-destroying freedom to cart home consumer products in plastic bags under a new ban in Alameda County, California. Beginning in 2013, shoppers will only have the option of buying paper and reusable bags at a price of 10 cents and up, while people found using plastic bags will be shot. (Nah.) The measure is not as broad as another ban that recently went in place in San Jose, as it only affects 2,000 pharmacies and certain food retailers. Still, it has the plastic-bag industry worried, said one industry booster: “We are trying to get the education out that bags can and are being recycled, and that their manufacture uses less energy and produces less greenhouse gases” than non-ocean-killing bag manufacturing.
• Also in California, the 50,000-resident city of Rancho Santa Margarita has forbidden sex offenders from entering parks. Well, sort of: People who fall under that shameful category can ask for written permission from the chief of police to stroll through a verdant green on a specific date and time, and then see where that gets them. The weird thing, though, is that the homeowners associations that own these parks have decided to fight the ban. They apparently decided that enforcing the ban could open them up to liability issues – for instance, what if one of their own happened to be a registered sex offender? Hmmm.
• The Chinese tourist city of Xi'an has banned "large dogs," 34 breeds in all. Officials gave no reason for the canine embargo, but given the city's famed trove of terracotta warriors and dogs' propensity to pee on inanimate standing objects, one can hazard a guess at why.
• Washington, D.C., finally banned its Occupy protesters, who have clung like landlocked barnacles to McPherson Square despite the populist movement flagging in most other major cities. Protesters who continue to camp in the square will receive citations from the U.S. Park Police.
• About 100 miles north of Little Rock, Arkansas, in the lesser rock of Calico Rock, the city council has adopted an ordinance outlawing the videotaping of its own regular meetings. This stab at the heart of the First Amendment arrives in the wake of four meetings being posted on YouTube by someone/thing named White River Current. The ban will probably only increase the popularity of these insights into the Machiavellian transactions of Calico Rock's pols, whose approval of a museum contract has already racked up 87 views on the popular video-sharing site.
Explaining the ban, Mayor Ronnie Guthrie explained that residents attending the meetings said "they didn't want to be on YouTube." Well, here at The Atlantic Cities, we stand united with citizen journalists who want to watchdog their local government. So without further ado, here is the Calico Rock city council deciding... well, something or other related to a visitor-center contract: