As if Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't have enough on his plate with the headlines about his wife's chief of staff, the ongoing battle over banning carriage horses and other City Hall drama, the mayor is reopening that old "nanny state" Mike Bloomberg can of controversy -- a ban on sugary drinks.
De Blasio has been brainstorming with soda lobbyists and health advocates to find ways to reduce consumption of such products. You may recall that two years ago, Bloomberg pushed through a law banning sales of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, delis, food carts and movie theaters. The courts struck down the law as unconstitutional.
But de Blasio seems eager to resurrect the battle. Why, Bill, why?
"The city's proposal to cap the size of sugary drinks responds to the alarming obesity and diabetes crisis" that disproportionately affects minority groups, the mayor said in June, when he urged New York's Court of Appeals to reinstate the ban.
Yes, obesity and diabetes are out of control, while the argument rages on between personal freedom and government overreach versus the public's right not to have to pay inflated health care costs due to the overindulgence of sugar junkies.
But prohibition of harmful products "for our own good" has never worked out, ever since the days of, well, Prohibition. How would a ban be enforced? Diet drinks would be exempt from the ban. When your pal at the movie concession stand slips regular cola into your 32-ounce cup, who can tell the difference? Would we have soda cops monitoring our soda pop? How? Take a sip of our soda, then do spit takes? "Eww, this isn't diet! Up against the wall!"
If de Blasio wants to sell this rehashed idea to New Yorkers, he's got his work cut out for him. But he may have an ace up his sleeve. Anxious to change the perception that he takes marching orders from the Rev. Al Sharpton -- the Rachel Noerdlinger controversy and the Eric Garner case -- perhaps de Blasio can turn the tables and put the formerly rotund reverend to work as a spokesman for the soda ban. "I stopped imbibing sugary drinks, and now look how svelte I am," Sharpton can crow.
You're welcome, Mr. Mayor.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.