John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
How else will educators get naughty kids to fall in line?
Here's a quick catch-up on all the stuff that's being outlawed in the world (past editions):
TEENAGE SMOKING, IN NEW YORK
Enjoying a cancer stick in NYC is getting harder and harder these days. There are bans on smoking in parks and restaurants, huge tobacco taxes and now a bill pending before the City Council that would prohibit the sale of cigarettes to anyone under 21. The legislation, which has the backing of Mike Bloomberg, is meant to stop teens from getting hooked; city officials claim that eight out of 10 adult New Yorkers started smoking when they were below 21. "By delaying our city's children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we're decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus, creating a healthier city," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn, according to Reuters.
Quinn, who is running for mayor, has promised to continue fighting Bloomberg's health crusades. Whether that will escalate into the next mayor personally ripping ciggies from smokers' lips and putting them out on their foreheads is an open question.
POOPING DOGS, IN KENTUCKY
Packs of misbehaving dogs – or more accurately, misbehaving owners – have gotten a Louisville bridge closed to canines for the foreseeable future. The Big Four Bridge is an old railroad truss span across the Ohio River that's popular with bikers and dog walkers; however, it's also proven to be an industrial-grade magnet for dog feces. Locals have documented the regular accumulation of doggie dirt in a series of gruesome Flickr images – please do not click this collage, this really awful stuff or this “wheel chair dog [who] dropped five poos.”
In March, some dog owners tried to halt the problem by holding a Responsible Rally for Rover on the Big Four Bridge. It didn't seem to change the amounts of residual crud, reports the News and Tribune, so this week the city's Waterfront Development Corporation ruled that no pets will be allowed to cross. The corporation gave its reason as upholding a city ordinance against wanton pooping – a law, it noted, “that shouldn’t even need to be stated.”
BONG MASCOT, IN CANADA
The British Columbia township of Esquimalt has a problem with the mascot of the Bong Warehouse, which is shaped like – can you guess? – a bong. So the town's leaders are seeking legal advice to determine if the municipal bylaws allow them to regulate this mascot, which might not “fall in line with Esquimalt’s strategic plan for healthy living,” according to the Times Colonist.
The decidedly high-faced Big Bongie, as I like to imagine he's named, drew more citizen complaints than a local scandal involving a "secret" sewage plant near homes and schools, said one city councilman. However, another council member argued that fighting the walking bong would be useless, because a “bong in and of itself is a legal device.” The owner of the Bong Warehouse, if anybody cares, is sticking up for the rainbow-colored mascot, saying that banning him would be a “waste of taxpayer money.”
UNBANNED! PADDLING, IN FLORIDA
Children, watch your butts: It's legal once again to paddle in Marion County. The school board voted this week to allow elementary-school principals to whup the behinds of misbehaving students, as long as their parents give written permission.
It was a drastic turnaround from a 2010 restriction on corporal punishment in Marion and the enactment of a new discipline program involving behavioral specialists. That program seemed to be working – there are fewer out-of-school suspensions today than during the paddling years – but the school board (particularly one member who's a former principal) insists that a paddlin' is what wayward students need, reports the Ocala Star-Banner. That's despite the potential for lawsuits and research suggesting the punishment has negative side effects, like poor scores on the ACT exam. A silver lining for Marion students is that district regs only permit each of them to be smacked once a semester.
Though its popularity is decreasing, paddling remains a surprisingly standard way of disciplining American students. During the 2005 to 2006 school year, educators unleashed butt whappings on about 223,000 students, according to the Center for Effective Discipline. For those keeping track, here's the center's map of states that still allow paddling: