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Fast Food Apartheid
July 31, 2008 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Fast Food Apartheid: The Los Angeles City Council has placed a one-year moratorium on the opening of fast-food restaurants in sections of the city with low-income residents. The council says it's meant to encourage healthy fare in locations that lack ready access to supermarkets and healthy restaurant. This columnist calls it "fast food apartheid." We're not talking anymore about preaching diet and exercise, disclosing calorie counts, or restricting sodas in schools. We're talking about banning the sale of food to adults. Treating French fries like cigarettes or liquor.
posted by Cool Papa Bell (282 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
We're talking about banningturning the firehose of sale of exploitative 'food' to adults down to medium high.

FTFY
posted by DU at 9:22 AM on July 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


"...said the initiative would give the city time to craft measures to lure sit-down restaurants serving healthier food to a part of the city that desperately wants more of them."


You mean "needs," or "should have," or "should consider," more of them. Someone should send this person to Economics 101. Supply, demand, etc.
posted by Debaser626 at 9:27 AM on July 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


Banning stuff that people want usually doesn't work. How about working on making non-processed food cheap and plentiful?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:28 AM on July 31, 2008 [19 favorites]


On quick perusal, I don't see any links to the actual ordinance. I'm curious about how they're defining "fast food." In San Francisco, cafes over a certain size are considered fast food restaurants for zoning purposes.

Also, this is annoying.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:29 AM on July 31, 2008


I really think all this banning of fast food, trans fats, etc. is a fad.
posted by agregoli at 9:30 AM on July 31, 2008


I love this from the Slate article:

"You try to get a salad within 20 minutes of our location; it's virtually impossible," says the Community Coalition's executive director. Really? The coalition's headquarters is at 8101 S. Vermont Ave. A quick Google search shows, among other outlets, a Jack-in-the-Box six blocks away. They have salads. Not the world's greatest salads, but not as bad as a government that tells you whose salad you can eat.

If anything, that made me understand how bad the problem is if thats the best he could come up with as a counter-argument.
posted by vacapinta at 9:30 AM on July 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


I endorse the worthy goal, but this seems like such a clumsy way and paternalistic way to do it. If you want to attract full-service grocery stores and healthier restaurants to the neighborhoods, why not create an incentive program or some sort of public-private food-supply partnership agreement (*that last strikes me as such a viable idea I'm going to look around to see whether anybody's doing it already). Or, if the concern is obesity, start policing parks better and beefing up recreation programs. I believe in aggressively promoting better choices, but I don't like that the ban applies to only the low-income areas instead of being citywide. These companies are definitely lousy in the way they take advantage of poor communities, but it seems that there are other and maybe more effective ways to do this. There's no guarantee that not having fast food places get built will result in groceries wanting to open up.
posted by Miko at 9:31 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I admire the sentiments from which the legislation sprang, but this is really poor governance. Fast food certainly makes you fat, but so do sit down restaurants. Over eating at the Olive Garden or your favorite Chinese buffet will certainly make you just as fat as eating at McDonald's.
posted by boubelium at 9:31 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Clarification on comment: My friend's father opened a Juice Bar in Bedford Stuyvesant a few years ago. It wendelled in about 4 months. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. Economics people...
posted by Debaser626 at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2008


"Sorry poor people, you're too dumb to feed yourselves. We'll decide what you can eat. Also, please report for forced sterilization, as you obviously don't deserve to reproduce and wreck our beautiful genes."

Oh America, you were once so beautiful, such a bright ray of hope in an oppressed world yearning to be free. Look at you now. You've changed, and you are ugly.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I foresee a massive business opportunity in fly-by-night curbside fried-food trucks. Ones that don't even pay lip service to health codes.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


Banning sales of food to adults? So the existing restaurants will be shut down? No? Oh.
posted by boo_radley at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's not like they're closing restaurants that are already there.

But there's also the other economic issues to consider. In a poorer neighborhood where residents are more likely to be working manual labor jobs and have relatively little time to prepare for themselves cheap and healthier food, the fact of the (near) recession in addition to the evaporation of a lot of people's real estate worth makes the "healthier sit-down-style restaurants" the most squeezed in the market.

Rich people will always be able to afford upscale places, and working class and lower-middle-class folks who might have gone to "healthier sit-down style" restaurant before are probably less likely to spend that $10-15 per person and go over to the fast food place and try to get that expenditure down to $5 or so.

I don't disapprove of the idea of the moratorium but they didn't exactly pick the best year to give any newer, healthier, and moderately pricier restaurants much of a chance.
posted by chimaera at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I' m of two minds here. On the one hand, it is kind of paternalistic and shitty. On the other, they're not banning fast food, they're temporarily blocking the opening of new fast food restaurants. I'd bet you the cheeseburger I'll almost certainly have for lunch that those neighborhoods are already saturated with burger and pizza joints. I doubt this is going to have much of an impact on people's diets.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone, and this includes the columnist, who complains that this is "fast food apartheid" has:

1. Never lived under apartheid
2. Doesn't begin to know what the word "apartheid" means
3. Doesn't realize how offensive it is to misuse this kind of rhetoric
4. Never lived in a low-income neighborhood, where a fast food restaurant is on every other block

Someone who wants fast food can just walk a block or two in any direction, to get to the next stretch of fast food outlets. A one-year moratorium on new construction isn't going to kill off the industry, nor will it affect availability of fast food in any significant way.

In the meantime, LA can now encourage business development of its commercially-zoned land in the direction in supermarkets that sell fresh, healthy food, a privilege enjoyed by those who live outside low-income neighborhoods.

As a larger matter, city councils all across the country choose many criteria for how and when they grant license to private industry to do business on commercially-zoned land.

Some locales choose not to grant licenses to head shops or adult bookstores, for example, so for a right-wing columnist to complain that fast food industries is ridiculous right from the start. There is no "right" for any industry to dictate to the residents of a city how their neighborhoods should be developed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 AM on July 31, 2008 [55 favorites]


And of course, in a few months, the closet suburbs to these areas will be complaining about all of "them" coming in to "their" fast food joints and how something simply must be done
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on July 31, 2008


What would Tom (Jefferson) and the constitutional gang say...
posted by ljrsphb at 9:38 AM on July 31, 2008


for a right-wing columnist to complain that fast food industries is ridiculous right from the start should read: for a right-wing columnist to complain that fast food industries are being mistreated is ridiculous right from the start
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:38 AM on July 31, 2008


Actually yeah, on further thought, Blazecock Pileon is right.

However, I'm still curious about how they're defining fast food restaurants. This could be hurting the good guys.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:39 AM on July 31, 2008



I think they mean well.

Having lived in some pretty shitty neighborhoods, the choice of fare in such areas doesn't seem to have anything to do with "supply and demand" - it's more like what chains are willing to come into places that others won't. The bad supermarkets (C-Town, etc.) are oddly expensive, with pathetic produce, so the quickest and cheapest thing is the fast food chains.

That said, I don't know how you're going to encourage restaurants that serve healthy food to come into neighborhoods like that, without being prohibitively expensive.

One thing that strikes me as odd is that places like Fairway Market in NYC, which I think (though I don't really know) tend to be patronized by more affluent people, actually have cheaper prices and better produce than the crap supermarkets in low income neighborhoods...

Here in Brooklyn we have things called CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) that seems to provide really good cheap produce to families that need it... They should be encouraging such things instead of banning fast food restaurants, I guess. But it's a start.
posted by bukharin at 9:40 AM on July 31, 2008


What would Tom (Jefferson) and the constitutional gang say...

Probably not the discussion-ender you seem to think it is. Constitutional rights and city planning are not mutually exclusive concepts.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


heh. california. the 'big one' can't come soon enough...
posted by quonsar at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the kind of thing that incites hyperbolic paroxysms of libertarian hand wringing about slippery slopes and earnest defenses of the so-called "free market," but I'm not shedding any tears because McDonalds and Carl's Jr. can't temporarily sell more of their crap to poor people in a neighborhood where 30% of the kids are obese. Some perspective here seems in order, and if all you free-market evangelists directed some of your self-righteous ire towards Halliburton and the Pentagon our country might be better served. Just saying.
posted by ornate insect at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sorry poor people, you're too dumb to feed yourselves.

It's not about too dumb, it's about too poor to feed yourself properly. The poor gather around fast food joints because those places all have "dollar menus-" a system that has long-term damaging impact on both the economy and the environment.

If there were stores everywhere that sold healthy salads for a dollar, i bet a lot more people would buy them. Instead you have to pay eight bucks for one at an Au Bon Pain.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


of course if they were putting a moratorium on medical marijuana outlets in those neighborhoods, people here would be outraged over that
posted by pyramid termite at 9:42 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's this kinda painful rift between what might be healthiest or "best" for poorer residents vs what they actually want/need. I remember watching a program that talked about a small town where they were deciding whether a chain supermarket or a co-op should take over a building. There was a deep divide between what I guess you could call the intellectual class and the working class. Ultimately the co-op moved in but there were a lot of people who were angry about it. They didn't want the health food. They wanted the food they were used to. Eventually the people organizing the co-op had to promise that things like Wonderbread would be available at the store.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:44 AM on July 31, 2008


I'm really conflicted about this idea. I recall watching Robert Newman's A History of Oil, in which he says that he believes that the dissolution of all corporations is the Sine Qua Non of democracy, and since hearing it I've come to believe it. I tend to think that there absolutely needs to be legislative action taken to eliminate corporate influence in our government and on our streets. On the other hand, I don't believe in babysitting people this way. More importantly, I don't believe this is addressing the problem, it's just putting a bandaid on the symptom - possibly in a way that's more harmful than beneficial. I like that this sends a message to parasitic corporate entities, I don't like that it's some milquetoast nannying yet ineffective nonsense.
posted by shmegegge at 9:44 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hooray! Now Whole Foods will move in and open several stores!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:44 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


LA Times:
The law defines fast-food restaurants as "any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers.
Also, "businesses can apply for a 'hardship exemption' if they are intent on opening a fast-food restaurant."

LA Times editorial:
This page holds fast to the conviction that market forces are the indispensable ingredient in determining the best use of land. But it would be an insult to the people of South Los Angeles to tell them that they, and they alone, must be subject to decisions by developers and franchisees. Yes, residents there eat a lot of fast food -- because that's what's there. If other parts of town lost their specific plans, their design guidelines, their preservation zones and other protections that for decades have set high standards for quality of life and for property values, they too might find fewer sit-down restaurants and more burger and fried chicken joints.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:45 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, residents there eat a lot of fast food -- because that's what's there. that's what you can get quickly for 5 dollars.
posted by shmegegge at 9:46 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


durr...that first link is Cool Papa Bell's first link.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:47 AM on July 31, 2008


This would matter if America valued health care. But it will probably just make people in the area spend more resources in an attempt to find cheap and easy food if alternatives aren't put in place before the ban.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:47 AM on July 31, 2008


I think Blazecock Pileon is right about zoning, too, but I still think this measure is incomplete and needs to be part of a larger move toward change. It won't magically make healthier businesses invest in the neighborhood's locality. And I still wish it were citywide, not just confined to the poor neighborhoods. What a statement that would be - no new fast food joints in LA for one year.
posted by Miko at 9:48 AM on July 31, 2008


I've been following this story for a bit, and that Slate column is absolute bullshit.

—They're not closing current restaurants, of which there are plenty. So, it's not a ban on selling food to adults. Which means that his thesis is a bit of rhetorical trickery argued to emotion, rather than reason (what used to be called an ad hominem).

—The obesity rate in those neighborhoods really is higher (roughly 30% higher than the LA average). If we accept that public moneys will have to be spent in order to deal with the effects of obesity (which they will, given that diseases linked to obesity, like diabetes, generally require a high level of subsidization in order to care for) then protecting those public monies by restricting the expansion of interests opposed can be justified. This is especially true if we recognize even private insurers as part of the public good, though a case can still be made by arguing that those in lower-income neighborhoods are more likely to need Medicare.

—The impact regarding personal freedom is low, in that individuals are losing only the ability to go to future fast food restaurants that don't exist yet. Business owners, including those who invest in property with the hopes of leasing or selling it to fast food restaurants, may suffer some lack of future profits based on a limiting of their options, but this can be seen as a trade-off, in that current locations will become more valuable.

—The author of this piece, William Saletan, is the same one who argues that black people are genetically stupider, so it seems a bit disingenuous for him to argue against the government making paternalistic choices, with a tone of racial outrage to boot.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2008 [19 favorites]


Won't work....

Sort of like the fact that the 'hood liquor store (near where I work, lucky me), had a big sign on the window today advertising the fairly good, but inexpensive wine I usually buy as "on sale" at $3 more per bottle than I can typically get it for about $5.99 on sale at my upscale grocery store near where I live. (please, yes, I know, I drink cheap wine...blame the economy!)

The stores coming into low income areas typically will be more expensive and have less quality..

Is there a Whole Foods in Compton? Nope, but there are three in Santa Monica....

I think the answer is free public transportation from Compton to Santa Monica... there, solved it...
posted by HuronBob at 9:53 AM on July 31, 2008


I must have missed the point at which William Saletan became something other than a bigoted idiot.
posted by scrump at 9:54 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The funniest part of this outrage is how it only works in one direction. EVEN IF they were closing down all the fast food restaurants in a poor neighborhood (which they aren't), wouldn't the Standard Wingnut Argument be "so move somewhere else"? That's the argument to pollution, ecological destruction, noise, high unemployment and high crime. So why not to "fast food apartheid"?
posted by DU at 9:55 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


The OPENING. Those that are open can continue to poison the population.

Yeah, clearly this is crazy talk. Next we won't be able to open strip clubs next to elementary schools and zoning boards will limit the number of bars in city limits.

Its so unfair to live in a democracy where citizens elect representatives who pass laws in an attempt to shape their community.
posted by ewkpates at 9:55 AM on July 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is one of the most misguided policies I've ever seen. The definition of a banned restaurant:
"any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers."
Notice: nothing about whether the food is healthy or not. Some of the best food in the world is served from street stands or hole-in-the-wall places that meet these criteria. If someone wanted to open a juice bar or a vegan wrap restaurant (despite the fact that no one in the area is probably interested in their food), they'd be blocked by this ban.

News flash: poor people eat at fast food places because that's what they can frickin' afford. A lot of them also work there. You're going to take away their jobs and their food, without providing anything in return? A guy selling tacos is some kind of public menace now?
If McDonald's starts taking orders at the table, using fine china, taking longer to process your order, and charging twice as much, suddenly it will be OK?

And the ban doesn't apply to people in wealthier areas? My God, the hypocrisy. Ban corn syrup or something, if you want to do some patronizing thing to make poor people eat the way you think they should. This is just incredibly lame.
posted by designbot at 9:57 AM on July 31, 2008 [13 favorites]


Local, state and federal governments should take away the moratorium on dumping toxic waste in residential neighborhoods. I think I'll become a columnist like this jackass and write about the suffering caused to the chemical industry by environmental laws.

Adults should be allowed to choose for themselves and their children how much PCBs and heavy metals they want in their drinking water and on their property. Instead, we have libruls making that choice for the public and interfering with the free market.

This is totally Un-American. I'll call my article "Mutagen Apartheid". Yeah, that should get the Cato Institute to float some dollars my way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:58 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


a Jack-in-the-Box six blocks away

Yeah, but this is L.A. Everybody drives, so with the traffic and the parking it could easily take 20 minutes.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:58 AM on July 31, 2008


William Saletan is ridiculous, but he's hitting on an interesting point, in his typically sledgehammer way. California just recently "banned" trans fats as well. It's a situation in which city and state legislators (and the celebrity governor who doesn't much like governing anymore now that he's no longer soaring in the approval ratings, commanding headlines, and getting on the covers of newsweeklies), who have absolutely no plan to solve the $15 billion state budget stalemate (by far the worst state budget stalemate this year as well as the worst in California history), turn their pea-brained attention to nanny-state lawmaking and picayune idiocies that have no impact on anything but their massive, flatulent egos.
posted by blucevalo at 9:58 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


More points to ponder:

* One of the reasons there are few supermarkets in South L.A. is that high crime rates in the area ruin volume businesses with thin profit margins.

* Measured as a ratio of cops-to-citizens, Los Angeles is among the most under-policed big cities in the nation (the ratio is about half that of New York City).

* Rather than a political push for more cops and more law and order (perhaps in reaction to the LAPD's well-trod history of corruption), this is how the City Council reacts.

Discuss...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:01 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


... the 'hood liquor store (near where I work, lucky me), had a big sign on the window today advertising the fairly good, but inexpensive wine I usually buy as "on sale" at $3 more per bottle than I can typically get it for about $5.99 on sale at my upscale grocery store near where I live.

This is like when some friends and I were around Times Square (only for the $20 all night laser tag and free-play arcade games, now no more) and a few people got something to eat quick at a fast food place. One of my friends noted that the fast food place for the tourists in Times Square was actually cheaper than the fast food place up in Spanish Harlem where she lived.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:04 AM on July 31, 2008


I am left to wonder who will stand up, take on the yoke of history, and be for the impoverished masses of LA, a fast food Mandela.
posted by felix betachat at 10:05 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Rather than a political push for more cops and more law and order....this is how the City Council reacts.

This might be the first time I've heard of poor nutritional health being solved with guns. No doubt we'll also soon see early childhood education, high stamp prices and that annoying itch that your elbow sometimes gets all solved with The Only Thing Those Animals Understand.
posted by DU at 10:06 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Discuss...

CPB, if you want to argue by proxy that the poor in LA live under apartheid, then perhaps fast food restaurants have a lot less to do with that condition than the artificial maintenance of high crime, pollution, third-world healthcare, and a lack of education and job opportunities. Subsidizing the fast food industry to keep obese people sick, while paying workers a non-subsistence wage with little or no benefits would seem to be part and parcel of the larger picture of maintaining a state of apartheid.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:12 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


This might be the first time I've heard of poor nutritional health being solved with guns.

Thanks for putting words into my mouth. But if you read the article, you'll see the reason for the legislation is the lack of access to cheap, fresh and healthy foods. The idea that supermarkets aren't in South L.A. because of crime rates is quite well known. After the Rodney King riots in 1992, all the major chains pledged to build and re-build in the area, to very little effect.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:15 AM on July 31, 2008


CPB, if you want to argue by proxy that the poor in LA live under apartheid...

Will you please stop trying to impress motivations on me? Because you're always flat fucking wrong. It's just a discussion, dude.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:17 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


In the meantime, LA can now encourage business development of its commercially-zoned land in the direction in supermarkets that sell fresh, healthy food, a privilege enjoyed by those who live outside low-income neighborhoods.

But not Wal-Mart, whose Supercenters could bring cheap produce to food deserts. Jan Perry and the L.A. City council worked to keep them out in 2004.

So we should keep fast-food outlets from opening because people will choose to work and eat there and it is unhealthy, and we should keep Wal-Mart out because people will choose to work and shop there and it is [bad for the workers, bad for competitors, etc.]. But nobody else will go in there because they can't make it economically viable.

How does this serve these communities?
posted by AgentRocket at 10:19 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


...if you read the article, you'll see the reason for the legislation is the lack of access to cheap, fresh and healthy foods. The idea that supermarkets aren't in South L.A. because of crime rates is quite well known.

I don't think it's really putting words into your mouth. You are willing to track the issue back towards a root cause until you get to a point where it can be solved by, and I quote, "more law and order". As Mr Pileon points out, there's a whole constellation of problems in this area the most fundamental of which is not the low density of firearms.
posted by DU at 10:20 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


To people commenting on how much more expensive things seem in poorer neighborhood, I suspect you're absolutely right. I know that some research was done on furniture stores a while back(probably the 60s) that found that prices were much higher in low income neighborhoods.

The reason for this is that it costs more to do business in poorer neighborhoods. For the furniture companies, it was people who didn't make their payments, which is, unsurpisingly, much more common in low income communities. For grocery stores, I'm guessing the issue is crime. Shoplifting is probably much more common in a grocery store in the ghetto than one in a nice suburb.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2008


I grew up in deeply poor neighbourhoods, and I think this is a good thing...as long as this gives local businesses with less negative impact a chance. Especially local businesses that can offer jobs.

Chain fast food places are a bane and blight in poor neighbourhoods, because the land is cheap and they can fulfill their "open this many per year"/"counter this many competitors" quotas easily.

In the area they are describing, there is no shortage of fast food already. Poor people are not suddenly going to have to go without a cheeseburger.
posted by batmonkey at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The reason for this is that it costs more to do business in poorer neighborhoods.

Either that, or, you know, economic predation on a politically marginalized community. Maybe it's just a matter of perspective.
posted by felix betachat at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


"* Rather than a political push for more cops and more law and order (perhaps in reaction to the LAPD's well-trod history of corruption), this is how the City Council reacts."

Well, they've got a massive deficit and can't raise taxes.

And the folks pressing for more law and order, like Bernard Parks, are linked to massive corruption and scandal (and their ideas for how to implement more law and order are often sketchy platitudes at best).

But in calling 911 last night after seeing a car fleeing from a hit and run and not being able to get through to any operators for five minutes before hanging up (and not getting any follow-up call from the police) has made me appreciate the "own a gun" crowd a little more.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on July 31, 2008


access to cheap, fresh and healthy foods.

Provide subsidies, tax breaks, and menu development grants to create alternatives with the same convenience and price.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:26 AM on July 31, 2008


As Mr Pileon points out, there's a whole constellation of problems in this area the most fundamental of which is not the low density of firearms.

But Cool Papa Bell wasn't saying there needed to be more guns there, but more policing (problematic considering the LAPDs history and reputation). I don't think it's controversial that more and better policing can help prevent crime, (as seen in "nice" neighborhoods,) and therefore open up areas to business that would otherwise be unprofitable in a high-crime area.
posted by Snyder at 10:26 AM on July 31, 2008


"any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers."

Let them eat Whole Foods Vegan no flour cake?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:27 AM on July 31, 2008


You mean "needs," or "should have," or "should consider," more of them. Someone should send this person to Economics 101. Supply, demand, etc.

Really? Is that why check cashing stores, liquor stores and OTB flourish in these places but there are no banks? Because of supply,demand, etc? If the 'supply' of decent, healthier (note use of the comparative) restaurants/food is a 35 bus/subway/car ride away and the KFC is a two minute walk down the block, is that really demand or is it necessity?

How about incentivizing banks/healthier restaurants/etc to open in places that they won't because the are scared and thus increasing the SUPPLY for these neighborhoods, thus allowing the demand.
posted by spicynuts at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2008


How many fast-food places would normally have opened in that region in a year?
posted by aramaic at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2008


as long as this gives local businesses with less negative impact a chance

Sounds to me like the language above bans taco stands and just about anything someone with limited resources could afford to open.

Put another way: Hey San Fransisco, I think some of your pseudo-hippie elitist bullshit got out and wandered into our yard. Please come and fetch it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2008


The premise, and many of the arguments advanced by people in this thread, are flawed. As a general matter I don't think that people are eating fast food just because it's cheap, but would eat healthier foods if they were just as convenient and inexpensive. I think people are eating fast food because they like how it tastes. If the former was true, the ban would at least have some logic (although it would still offend anyone concerned about government deciding what's "best for you"). But if it's the latter (as I believe it to be), it's just making it more difficult for people to get what they enjoy, while still making it unlikely that the desired result (healthier eating) will be accomplished.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:32 AM on July 31, 2008


They're not closing current restaurants, of which there are plenty. So, it's not a ban on selling food to adults.

No, it's more insidious than that: it's a ban on some companies selling food to adults, while other companies are allowed to continue selling, thanks to a de facto grandfather clause protecting them from new competitors. Do you think you could start a fast food restaurant that will be healthier and more popular than South LA's current options? Too bad, you're not allowed. The fast food restaurant owners that are already there ought to be thrilled; this kind of "nanny state" intervention will never gain enough political support for them to lose their stores to government action, and now they no longer have to worry about losing their stores to free market competition either.
posted by roystgnr at 10:33 AM on July 31, 2008


-This moratorium (not "ban") is only for one year. That's bupkis in development time. People will still have their choice of existing McDonald's, Carl's Jr, Jack in the Box, Panda Express, Del Taco, Fatburger, etc ad nauseam. This just gives other types of uses a chance to catch up with the glut of fast food that's there now.
-As I understand it, people interested in opening businesses in low-income areas are regularly denied loans unless they open fast-food franchises and liquor stores, which are known to make money in those areas. The lenders are really at fault here, for denying opportunities for other kinds of businesses to flourish. The moratorium will, one hopes, force lenders to do some out-of-box thinking -- and yes, I agree that it should include liquor stores too.
-"Choice" and "want" (in the supply & demand sense) are sticky concepts with many constraints attached.
-Prices are (artificially) low at fast-food restaurants because they're offering poor-quality product, full of corn syrup, bleached flour with no fiber, growth hormones, insecticides, fillers, artificial flavoring, and heaven knows what else. It isn't real food in the Michael Pollan sense. If it keeps a family from starving for one more night, that's good, but it's not going to help that family be healthy.
posted by mirepoix at 10:34 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh America, you were once so beautiful, such a bright ray of hope in an oppressed world yearning to be free. Look at you now. You've changed, and you are ugly.

Please tell me in which year/month that so-called ray of hope happened. I'm dying to know.

So if McD's served out their crap on plates and took orders tableside, would they qualify as a sit-down restaurant?

Socio-economics are a hard thing to change and central planning didn't work out too well for Eastern Europe, as I recall. Maybe if Ceausescu had allowed a couple Dunkin/Baskin/Togo's trombos here and there they wouldn't have shot him like that. Ok, Elena yes, but not Nicky. Even so, food zoning has been around for awhile and that obesity thing is just eye wool for the real reason: property value.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:35 AM on July 31, 2008


This columnist calls it "fast food apartheid."

Wait a minute. William Saleton isn't calling it fast food apartheid. The proponents of the moratorium are calling the current situation fast food apartheid. From the Slate article:

"A fellow council member explains: 'The over concentration of fast food restaurants in conjunction with the lack of grocery stores places these communities in a poor situation to locate a variety of food and fresh food.' Supporters of the moratorium call this state of affairs 'food apartheid.'"

The LA Times article that the Slate piece links to says:

"The proposed ordinance, which takes a page from boutique communities that turn up their noses at franchises, is supported by nutritionists, frustrated residents and community activists who call restrictive zoning an appropriate response to 'food apartheid.'

So why is everyone here getting up in arms about the Slate article? If anyone should be accused of misusing the term, it's the proponents of this moratorium.

posted by reformedjerk at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2008


How did the L.A. City Council get around this resistance? By spinning the moratorium as a way to create more food choices, not fewer. And by depicting poor people, like children, as less capable of free choice.

Isn't that the thing about being poor that you're not capable of complete free choice...because you don't have the money to afford it? But of course, compare it with children to make it sound like a cognitive problem. (besides isn't that the right wing argument anyway: that poor people are poor because they aren't capable of making good economic choices?)
posted by kigpig at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2008


who have absolutely no plan to solve the $15 billion state budget stalemate

$15B state deficit / $1.8T GDP = 0.8% of GDP

$540B federal deficit / $13T economy = 4.1% of GDP

just sayin'
posted by yort at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2008


roystgnr--you do realize your comment falls in the wake of perhaps the biggest "bail-out" of for-profit companies (Fanny Mae/Freddy Mac/Bear Stearns) in history? I'm looking forward to seeing your FPP on the government's no-bid contracts to Halliburton as well. The "nanny state" is a drop in the bucket: seen Exxon's profits lately? Look UP the ladder for a change.
posted by ornate insect at 10:42 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


California just recently "banned" trans fats as well. It's a situation in which city and state legislators (and the celebrity governor who doesn't much like governing anymore now that he's no longer soaring in the approval ratings, commanding headlines, and getting on the covers of newsweeklies), who have absolutely no plan to solve the $15 billion state budget stalemate (by far the worst state budget stalemate this year as well as the worst in California history), turn their pea-brained attention to nanny-state lawmaking and picayune idiocies that have no impact on anything but their massive, flatulent egos.



"Denmark became the first country to introduce laws strictly regulating the sale of many foods containing trans fats in March 2003, a move which effectively bans partially hydrogenated oils. The limit is 2% of fats and oils destined for human consumption. It should be noted that this restriction is on the ingredients rather than the final products. This regulatory approach has made Denmark the only country in which it is possible to eat "far less" than 1 g of industrially produced trans fats on a daily basis, even with a diet including prepared foods.[65] It is hypothesized that the Danish government's efforts to decrease trans fat intake from 6g to 1g per day over 20 years is related to a 50% decrease in deaths from ischemic heart disease."

Banning trans fat seemed to have an effect on the general health of people in Denmark. Seeing as we all pay for each other's health care around here, this doesn't seem like such a bad thing. Especially since there are all sorts of alternatives to trans fats, and many companies that formerly used them are phasing/have phased them out voluntarily. It's pretty clear that people in the crummy part of town have limited food options- why not make those options healthier? It seems like a better approach than moratoriums on small businesses of a certain type.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:43 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Either that, or, you know, economic predation on a politically marginalized community. Maybe it's just a matter of perspective.

I think calling it predation is a little overwrought, but it's certainly true that poor people lack access to options, which makes it easier to charge more for lower quality merchandise. Evern acknowledging that, the higher cost of doing business in low income neighborhoods is a major barrier to development in these communities, and all the talk about marginalization in the world won't change that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:44 AM on July 31, 2008


In a hilarious bizzaro world version of this, my neighborhood (Capitol Hill, Seattle) has lost EVERY SINGLE fast food joint within 2 miles. The only place left is a Burger joint that takes 15 minutes to order (Dicks' Burger).

Within a few months they closed a Taco Bell, a Jack in the Box, and a KFC. I am not thrilled with this as I now have nowhere to go to get my cheesburger at 2 AM in my sweatpants. Asshole health-conscious yuppies/hipsters.....
posted by lattiboy at 10:46 AM on July 31, 2008


San Francisco has very few fast food and other chain restaurants. Most neighborhoods object to them and work to keep them out. The result is a lot of really good mom-and-pop restaurants that are high and low end. Competition is stiff so overall restaurant quality is good. I'd rather have a really good burrito, vegetable curry or savory crepe than McDonald's any day.

The Tenderloin, one of SF's 'bad' neighborhoods has a ton of good and cheap Vietnamese and Indian places. The Mission is taqueria heaven but also has a slew of other ethnic joints that are not expensive. But the tough areas with big housing projects are still the odd man out.
posted by shoesietart at 10:46 AM on July 31, 2008


Is that why check cashing stores, liquor stores and OTB flourish in these places but there are no banks?

In a way, yeah, actually, at least in part. I've worked bank branches in poor neighborhoods, and there was always a pervasive and often vocal distrust of banks among the bulk of our customers, the overwhelming majority of whom were just dropping in to cash checks. Try to sell them on opening an account, and sometimes they'd react like you offered to steal their wallets.

There's also the high crime risk, sure, but under the Community Reinvestment Act, banks that totally avoid poor and minority-dominated neighborhoods can see the growth of their bank severely limited by the government, so it's not in their interest to avoid low-income neighborhoods entirely.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Within a few months they closed a Taco Bell, a Jack in the Box, and a KFC.

Those developers are probably reopening that KFC a few blocks away. The Jack in the Box is going to make way for a subway station, not for health/hipster reasons.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on July 31, 2008


I am in the mind that you can't regulate morality. I also think you can't arbitrarily discriminate against business. When an adult bookstore or a head shop is banned the community is defending a standard. I don't know what a cheeseburger vilifies.

As a cardiac nurse, and a person with common sense, I support the idea of less fast food and affordable access to fresh food and produce. One can hope that the ban on new construction of fast food will have a positive effect, but I'm not that optimistic. How we eat, and what we like to eat, is often deeply ingrained since a very young age . It's a culture of eating poorly and poor people aren't the only ones affected. It's an argument that will annoy some, but good nutrition starts at home and at an early age. We can serve a kid a healthy lunch at school. We can educate on proper nutrition and even limit access to fast food, but can we change a family's habits? A habit of convenience? A habit of that addictive mouth feel of too much fat and salt? Not unless you banned every single restaurant and policed pantries and refrigerators.
posted by LoriFLA at 10:57 AM on July 31, 2008


I think calling it predation is a little overwrought,

Bullshit. Have you ever shopped in a supermarket in a majority black neighborhood? I have. And do. Everything is marked up by a healthy margin. Why? Because poor black people are less likely to own cars and are thus locked in to a local vendor. With a captive population, a de facto monopoly is created and prices rise accordingly. Ditto the horrible furniture rental companies. They deliver and are willing to supply furniture with little money down, an attractive prospect for someone without cash reserves or a vehicle to head out to Ikea. This is predation on the powerless, however you'd like to spin it.

All those so-called "explanations" you cite? They're nostrums, plain and simple. Things privileged people whisper to themselves at night so they don't have to feel badly about fucking over the poor. "Higher cost of business" my ass. The opportunity costs may be slightly higher, but the payoff is enormous.
posted by felix betachat at 10:58 AM on July 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR: "[...] If there were stores everywhere that sold healthy salads for a dollar, i bet a lot more people would buy them. Instead you have to pay eight bucks for one at an Au Bon Pain. [...]"

Perhaps, although I'm not convinced; there are lots of obese middle-class people too, and they have the option of the Au Bon Pain salad — fast food is engineered to taste good in a way that nothing healthy for you is ever going to do. It's loaded with fat, salt, sugar, and simple carbohydrates: energy-dense substances that we've spent thousands of years evolving to seek out and crave.

Choosing the salad over the McBurger is, essentially, a long-term strategy; it's passing up a short-term reward (eating the salty, fatty, carby burger) due to a long term risk (it'll make you fat, maybe shave a few days/months/years off your life). I strongly doubt that people with very little stability are going to be interested in tradeoffs like that; in fact, many "urban" problems (esp. crime) are driven by people choosing exactly the opposite types of options, for perfectly understandable reasons. (Joining a gang is a poor long-term career path, but it might seem like — and may well be — a good idea in the short term.)

A very similar situation is tobacco use. Smoking has far greater long-term risks associated with it than eating at McD's, yet people start doing it anyway. And where do we see the highest rates of smoking? Low-income, urban people who are facing the most day-to-day uncertainty. It's tough to care about shaving a bunch of years off of your life down the road, when you might or might not make it to your next birthday, or when the future doesn't look that bright anyway.

Like Debaser626's anecdote about the juice bar, I don't think it's safe to say that 'if you provide it, people will buy.' It's taken decades to create a market for healthy foods among the middle and upper classes (and to not much of an end; obesity is still rampant), and not killing yourself via heart disease ought to be an easy sell to people with 401k's and other long-term plans. Although as it has been created, we've started to see companies like McDonalds and Wendy's respond with healthier options.

Working to create a demand for healthy food — by improving economic prospects, education, and lowering crime, so that people feel more secure — seems like a much better plan than simply trying to outlaw unhealthy options or mandate the provision of token healthy ones.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


yort: I wasn't suggesting that the federal budget deficit isn't a nightmare. All I was saying is that the California budget situation is the worst state budget situation this fiscal year (if there are figures to contest that, I stand corrected), and that Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature seem to have inserted their noggins especially far up their colons this year.

It's not a controversial statement that California faces a horrifically bad budget crisis this year. Even the most tax-increase-averse Republican legislators acknowledge that, at least in private. The problem will be even worse next fiscal year.
posted by blucevalo at 11:01 AM on July 31, 2008


Ironically, one of these poor South LA neighbourhoods had a pilot project that pointed to a magnificent new tactic in developing a solution this problem. It was called South Central Farm.

Now, unless I missed the part of Steve Biko's writing in which he called for unfettered access to a wider range of Value Menus, I certainly don't see a fast-food outlet moratorium as anything in the same league as "apartheid." That said, wouldn't LA City Council's time be better spent finding land to convert into food production and setting up agricultural training and nutrition programs for those who need them? Especially since there's already a proven model for that right in town, while this thing likely won't change much and just gives the trumpeting blowhards of the right-wing echo chamber a whole new breed of nanny-state outrage to toot about?
posted by gompa at 11:02 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Please tell me in which year/month that so-called ray of hope happened. I'm dying to know.

So if McD's served out their crap on plates and took orders tableside, would they qualify as a sit-down restaurant?


I'm not saying that fast food is good food, I'm saying that the idea that anyone has any right to stop someone from doing what they want to their own body is abhorrent to me. Let people be fat, thin, healthy, sick, whatever. People should be responsible for their own choices, and have to deal with the consequences.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:03 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


ornate insect: roystgnr--you do realize your comment falls in the wake of perhaps the biggest "bail-out" of for-profit companies (Fanny Mae/Freddy Mac/Bear Stearns) in history?

Yes, and I'm completely opposed to that as well.

I'm looking forward to seeing your FPP on the government's no-bid contracts to Halliburton as well.

Since that would be my first FPP, on a subject that was timely years before I got a Metafilter account, you're not going to have much to look forward to. So, here's what you should do instead:

1. Read this sentence, where I tell you that I oppose those contracts.

2. Apologize for sarcastically misconstruing my beliefs to try and fit me into a political pigeonhole (as a matter of fact, I voted for Gore; is that too confusing for you?)

3. Recognize that there are a lot of things wrong with the world, and that they don't have to be fixed, much less discussed, in any preapproved order.

4. Allow me the freedom, in a thread about government intrusion into restaurant choices, to discuss government intrusion into restaurant choices, without requiring me to write about housing bailouts or Iraq first. I have in fact already written about housing bailouts and Iraq, but if you are actually curious about the details I suggest hitting Google rather than attempting to derail the topic of conversation here.

Thank you.
posted by roystgnr at 11:06 AM on July 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


It's not about limiting the choices of people in South Central. They have limited choices now because the only places they can currently eat are fast food restaurants.

By saying "no" to further influx of fast food, something else will have to come in to fill that niche. The hope is that the food will be healthier, because they've outlawed the further influx of crap.

Great. Close down the whole McDonald's chain - it would make the world a better place.

I think that this first step needs to be followed up by incentives for the development of healthier food alternatives, clearly it's only a first step, but it's a great one. More power to them. This is what I want to see my government do - get rid of the bad stuff that the "invisible hand of the free market" seems incapable of getting rid of, and encouraging the good stuff that the "invisible hand of the free market" seems incapable of encouraging.
posted by MythMaker at 11:07 AM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think calling it predation is a little overwrought,

I'm inclined to disagree. I think predation is precisely what it is. When the neighborhood has virtually no banks, hundreds of check cashing places, an average income level below the poverty line but everyone has a credit card with a limit usually reserved for upper middle class breadwinners, that paints a pretty clear picture to my mind that there's been significant interest on the part of businesses to prevent poor people from saving their money and to make sure that they go substantially into debt. It's really easy to buy an escalade on credit if you're poor as shit and live in a bad neighborhood. I'm a white dude in a decent suburban neighborhood who doesn't make all that much money, (but it's still above poverty level) and I can't even buy a civic. And that's not even getting into the media and marketing efforts put into making sure things stay precisely like this.
posted by shmegegge at 11:09 AM on July 31, 2008


San Francisco has very few fast food and other chain restaurants.

It's true that some high-profile areas of SF don't have many fast-food joints as other areas, but there seem to be a number of fast-food joints in areas like Ingleside, Visitacion Valley, Bayview/Hunter's Point, and all along some of the major arteries (Market Street, Geary Boulevard, Cesar Chavez, 19th Avenue) -- except, as you point out, where neighborhoods have the clout and resources to agitate to get them removed.
posted by blucevalo at 11:11 AM on July 31, 2008


One thing that I'd mention about "salads" is that even the decent, $8-12 ones that are available at sit-down restaurants generally suck ass. If I had to base my perception of salad on the wilted Romaine (or worse, iceberg) lettuce, anemic tomatoes and hunk of cheese under some vile dressing that passes for "salad" in most places, I'd never want to eat one either.

It reminds me of a pal of mine who eats fast food like a horse, coming over to my house and having some guacamole. It's dirt simple the way I made it, with some avocados, onions, little bit of salsa and garlic, some salt and lime juice, and he was all asking for the recipe and going far beyond polite in his appreciation of it. He said that he always hated guacamole before, and I have to hypothesize that like most of the stuff he thinks only I (or my girlfriend) can make well, it's just that he's never really had good, fresh food before.

He's not low-income per se, just a single guy who's grown up in LA and doesn't have any idea about produce (though the meat he buys for himself is usually pretty decent stuff). I feel like a lot of people around here have that similar upbringing, where they just don't know what good tomatoes or peaches or onions should taste like.
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 AM on July 31, 2008


This is what I want to see my government do - get rid of the bad stuff that the "invisible hand of the free market" seems incapable of getting rid of, and encouraging the good stuff that the "invisible hand of the free market" seems incapable of encouraging

interesting factoid: "govern" shares the same greek root of "cyber": to steer or pilot a boat.
posted by yort at 11:14 AM on July 31, 2008


How we eat, and what we like to eat, is often deeply ingrained since a very young age . It's a culture of eating poorly and poor people aren't the only ones affected. It's an argument that will annoy some, but good nutrition starts at home and at an early age. We can serve a kid a healthy lunch at school. We can educate on proper nutrition and even limit access to fast food, but can we change a family's habits? A habit of convenience? A habit of that addictive mouth feel of too much fat and salt? Not unless you banned every single restaurant and policed pantries and refrigerators.


But the ingrained behavior can be caused by the lack of access. If there isn't a grocery store nearby, you may have had to raise your kids without a lot of vegetables. And if you're a busy parent needing to grab a quick meal for your family and your only restaurant choice is fast food, that's where you'll go.

If you have to take two buses across town to buy a tomato (I saw this last week on CNN's Black in America), you're not going to buy many tomatoes. Obesity, diabetes, strokes and heart disease disproportionately affect poor communities and a huge reason is poor eating habits. Certainly, it's a struggle to change habits and French fries will win over broccoli almost every time but for the person wanting to eat better, more should be done to help them and to help them raise their kids with better eating habits.
posted by shoesietart at 11:14 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Prohibition doesn't work. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, guns, trans fats, dangerous toys, skateboarding, fireworks, fast food...good grief. Let adults do as they wish.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2008


Will you please stop trying to impress motivations on me? Because you're always flat fucking wrong.

Will you please try to present your issue a little more even-handedly next time you write an editorial-based post? Because your post suggests a motivation on your behalf, whether or not you think it's unfair.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2008


"People should be responsible for their own choices, and have to deal with the consequences."

The problem is that with things like seat belts, smoking and, yes, obesity, people are fine with making their own choices, not so good on dealing with the consequences. Instead, we all end up having to shoulder the burden of caring for people who made choices that increase their risk. Which is, in part, as it should be, but the reality of modern life is opposed to that vestigial tenet of liberalism.
posted by klangklangston at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2008


Wait a minute. William Saleton isn't calling it fast food apartheid. The proponents of the moratorium are calling the current situation fast food apartheid. From the Slate article...

Glad to see that at least one other person read the linked articles. Not that it would have prevented the paternalistic apologisms for this ridiculous ordnance.
posted by yath at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2008


There is no "right to buy whatever you want." People do, on the other hand, have the right to regulate the businesses in their community.

Its American to use votes and laws to shape your community. It isn't American to whine about how you can't get a cheeseburger every other block.
posted by ewkpates at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2008


Putting on my Cynical Hat, I can't help thinking that landowners will simply bide their time 'til the moratorium ends and they can open up another McSomethingBellInTheBox.

Taking off said hat, I hold out hope that places like Fresh and Easy will fill some of the void left by the fast food places that would otherwise have opened in those areas.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:19 AM on July 31, 2008


@ blue_beetle: I'm with you on that.

Predation happens at all levels of finance, not just in the lower income brackets, and btw, predatory lending comes with predatory borrowing as well. Ask me about student loans and the underlying asset they're based/forced upon.

Fast food isn't addictive like cigs, booze and lottery, so if they can proliferate in one area vs. another it's because of market choice. And if mom and pop's can't make it there it's because of their business model. And the same hold true to the reverse situations where, in my neighborhood, corporate fast food joints fail unless underwritten by Berklee College of Ripoff.

On a high note, we now have an LA export: chicken and waffles.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:22 AM on July 31, 2008


Unhealthy food is generally cheaper than the healthy stuff. You can plop a "Whole Foods Market" right in the middle of a ghetto, and people will ride the friggin bus to get to a Mickey D's with a dollar menu.

And comparing a burger joint in a poor neighborhood to a strip clup next to an elementary school is a RIDICULOUS comparison.
posted by tadellin at 11:22 AM on July 31, 2008


Will you please try to present your issue a little more even-handedly

I'm sorry, what part of "The council says it's meant to encourage healthy fare in locations that lack ready access to supermarkets and healthy restaurants" did you not understand?

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:22 AM on July 31, 2008


Banning trans fat seemed to have an effect on the general health of people in Denmark.

I'm not questioning whether trans fat bans have value. Maybe they do, maybe they don't; I don't know enough about the matter to have an opinion.

I'm questioning whether it's the state government's business to ban trans fats when there are more pressing issues at hand, like a $15 billion budget deficit, a problem that, absent a solution, will have incredibly serious consequences, both for people who consume trans fats and people who don't.

One legislative item can happen hand-in-hand with the other, but my point is that California lawmakers are taking it upon themselves to "solve" one problem while doing nothing to solve the other.
posted by blucevalo at 11:23 AM on July 31, 2008


As someone who has lived under (near?) the yoke of oppression in the form of a moratorium on new fast food restaurants for the last 2+ years, in hindsight it's been the greatest thing for the neighborhood. (neighborhood in question is H Street in NE DC). Yeah, you had people complaining at the time that it was a "war on black people" and that "They're trying to steer what comes down here. They want an upscale environment, where they are comfortable around their own." (funny quote coming from a guy who opened a martini bar on that stretch). It takes a strange mindset to see shutting down a Blimpie's as a salvo in the "ROHOWA".
posted by Challahtronix at 11:24 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone who uses the phrase "fast food apartheid" should be necklaced with a deep fried onion ring.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:29 AM on July 31, 2008


@ Challatronix: How, specifically, did the moratorium benefit yoru neighborhood? Did businesses selling affordable fast-food alternatives move in, or did the place end up full of martini bars and so on? I didn't realize that this type of ordinance had been tried anywhere else, and I'm really curious about the results.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:30 AM on July 31, 2008


One legislative item can happen hand-in-hand with the other, but my point is that California lawmakers are taking it upon themselves to "solve" one problem while doing nothing to solve the other.

junk food in the ghetto is an LA-level problem.

The deficit is a state level problem.

Thanks for the concern trolling though.
posted by yort at 11:33 AM on July 31, 2008


sorry blucevalo sorta misread your latest.
posted by yort at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2008


There are far less noble reasons to restrict zoning. Get real.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2008


I'm sorry, what part of "The council says it's meant to encourage healthy fare in locations that lack ready access to supermarkets and healthy restaurants" did you not understand?

Do you have a link to statements from the council members, or any kind of in-depth coverage of their motivations or thought processes that lead up to their decision? Do you have analysis from a columnist in defense of the moratorium? Because what you have here otherwise is a single-link op-ed post of the sort that usually gets deleted.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2008


"I'm questioning whether it's the state government's business to ban trans fats when there are more pressing issues at hand, like a $15 billion budget deficit, a problem that, absent a solution, will have incredibly serious consequences, both for people who consume trans fats and people who don't."

Red herring. I have both big projects and little busyworks in my day, and that I sometimes do small things to get them out of the way does not mean that I am not addressing larger problems. If you don't like these priorities, you're free to vote for other folks who share your vision of government (well, moderately free, given constrained choices—an ironic counterpoint to the thesis of constrained choices of poor people to buy slow food).
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 AM on July 31, 2008


Unhealthy food is generally cheaper than the healthy stuff. You can plop a "Whole Foods Market" right in the middle of a ghetto, and people will ride the friggin bus to get to a Mickey D's with a dollar menu.

You're right and this is especially true if a person is hungry and only has a dollar, however, there's a wealth of choices between Mickey D's and Whole Foods. Farmer's markets have done well in San Francisco as do corner stores that carry produce. I used my corner store all the time just because it was closer than Safeway especially if I was cooking and needed an onion or a lemon and they weren't marked up yazoo.

The challenge will be to encourage restaurants and mini markets to open that sell healthier food that is not expensive.
posted by shoesietart at 11:35 AM on July 31, 2008


Slightly paternalistic too, but more palatable and possibly more effective: Pigovian tax on fast food to fund nutrition education.
posted by melissam at 11:38 AM on July 31, 2008


Fast food and apartheid are linked in my head, largely because apartheid-era South Africa did not have much of it, short of the execrable Wimpys (and the ubiquitous KFC). The gap was largely filled by "cafes" which were just convenience-style stores with assorted food products under heat lamps. Depressing burgers, soggy chips, decent curries.

One of the first things my brother and I would do when we visited the US was beg to go to McDonalds, much to our parents' chagrin. It represented everything wondrous about the states, at least to a child. Fast and delicious and always available.
posted by bitterpants at 11:39 AM on July 31, 2008


And, as a healthy eater newly returned to sprawly SoCal, a hip-hip for California Pizza Kitchen, for having, among the big sit-down chains, the best assortment of vegetables and salads on their menu. a $10 salad there is adequate in size and protein for two meals for me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:39 AM on July 31, 2008


Because what you have here otherwise is a single-link op-ed post of the sort that usually gets deleted.

Speaking of paternalistic...

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2008


We can educate on proper nutrition and even limit access to fast food, but can we change a family's habits? A habit of convenience? A habit of that addictive mouth feel of too much fat and salt? Not unless you banned every single restaurant and policed pantries and refrigerators.

I don't agree. I've seen some changing habits in the last few months, all due to food prices. My own family switched from Minute Rice to the real stuff (for some reason, Minute Rice has reached saffron-like levels of price insanity lately), and they are eating a lot more one-bowl sort of sauce-y, starch-y casserole things rather than their usual "chunk of meat plus potatoes or rice plus pile of vegetables" meals. They're also avoiding their usual meat staples in favor of more affordable cuts (skirt steak, chicken thighs, etc). These are not necessarily healthy choices, but they're definitely a significant break from habit -- my mother has been buying Minute Rice for 30 years.

If we made healthy food affordable, quick, and easy, and junk food expensive, slow, and relatively difficult, people would buy the healthy food. This is essentially just the reverse of the process which brought us here (when McDonald's started, it was a rare treat, not one's daily bread), so I'm not sure why people seem so certain that it won't work. When you've got to consciously work to buy decent food in this country, it's no surprise that few people bother.

As for the "fast food just tastes better" argument, I don't buy it. As others have pointed out, there are many restaurant options (Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern food, even Mexican) which are affordable and taste rich, but have options which aren't nearly as bad for you as fast food. This is not a binary choice between McDonalds or Fruitarian McBlandy's Tofu Hut & Oxygen Bar. It may not be optimally healthy, but a burrito made from fresh ingredients rather than the pre-packaged, preservative-laden stuff at Taco Bell is still a huge improvement, and around here, the price is roughly the same ($5 buys you a HUGE burrito at a burrito place, or the same amount of food in the form of two or three smaller burritos at TB).
posted by vorfeed at 11:42 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


the ubiquitous KFC

A guilty pleasure of mine around the world. Weirdly it really doesn't seem as enjoyable in it's country of origin.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on July 31, 2008


shmegegge,

I'm just not sure that the picture you've painted makes any sense. You speak of "business" as if its a monolithic entity, but it's not. Take the absence of banks and prevelance of check cashing places, that's two things, not one. The analysis only makes sense if you acknowledge that. Why do banks not want to be there? No one has any money, so they tend not to buy high end banking products. Why are check cashing places there? Well, no one has any money, so the service is desired by the community. Only one of these parties has any interest in keeping the community poor, and its check cashers. I'm sure the banks would love it if the community suddenly was flush with cash and looking to open money market accounts.

It's this way for most businesses. A car dealer selling cars on credit to people who can't afford them will make some money, but in the long run it would be more profitable to sell those cars to people who make their payments. I'm also not sure this "Escalade on credit" phenomena is as common as you think. For the most part, the poor people I've met take public transportation. Stolen Escalades? Sure. Escalades they bought on credit cards they can't afford? Not so much.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:47 AM on July 31, 2008


"A guilty pleasure of mine around the world. Weirdly it really doesn't seem as enjoyable in it's country of origin."

I thought about that when I was abroad—in Paris and Barcelona, the patrons in the McDonald's and Burger Kings were all natives. Everyone wanted to bitch about McD's to me, but there they were, full of folks eschewing the cafés across the street.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on July 31, 2008


I live in a relatively low-income neighborhood of Los Angeles (K-Town, y'heard!), and I'm a little bit confused about what the problem is. Good, cheap food is available in abundance around my apartment.

Not enough fruits and vegetables? There's a cart on every fucking corner where some friendly gentleman who speaks precisely enough English to get your order right and wish you a nice day will cut you up an enormous bag of fresh fruit for a couple of bucks. The days when I can't get fresh grilled corn sold from a local street vendor are outnumbered by the days when I can.

Not enough fresh meat? I can walk into a store two blocks from my house, point at a live chicken, and they'll take it in the back and kill and butcher it for me. There aren't a whole lot of well-off neighborhoods in Los Angeles where I can eat a bird that was clucking twenty minutes earlier. I can do the same for fish, crab and clams.

I can support a moratorium of crappy soulless corporate fast-food in spirit, but as someone who's living in one of the lower-end economic areas of Los Angeles, reviewing my personal experiences makes me realize that I'm really not sure why it's necessary.

I will totally give my support to anyone upthread who mentioned that check cashing establishments are a fucking blight, however.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:50 AM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


@ Challatronix: How, specifically, did the moratorium benefit yoru neighborhood? Did businesses selling affordable fast-food alternatives move in, or did the place end up full of martini bars and so on? I didn't realize that this type of ordinance had been tried anywhere else, and I'm really curious about the results.

I can't point to any specific benefit being directly attributable to the ban (aside from the Blimpie's closing and the "retooling" of Cluck-U and a few others to bring them into compliance) but there's been an influx of new restaurants and bars, some upscale, some not. Sticky Rice is a little hipster, but is affordable and has a mixed clientele. and the prices aren't that much different from the ubiquitous Chinese-takeout-with-Americanized-name-and-bulletproof-glass found throught DC. Nothing's as cheap as something off the dollar menu, but there's not a lot of new places where you can spend over $10 on a sandwich either. H Street today is a destination point and not a neighborhood to be avoided- and three years ago it was the latter. I think only one truly "upscale" restaurant has opened on H since then was Napa 1015, and they've been closed for weeks since a car drove through their front window.

I count the moratorium as one of the pieces that helped and not a magic bullet.
posted by Challahtronix at 11:53 AM on July 31, 2008


klang sez: He's not low-income per se, just a single guy who's grown up in LA and doesn't have any idea about produce (though the meat he buys for himself is usually pretty decent stuff). I feel like a lot of people around here have that similar upbringing, where they just don't know what good tomatoes or peaches or onions should taste like.

Why do you think that is? I ask because, having lived all over the country, L.A. is easily the place I've lived with the best, most affordable produce. I don't think I knew what a good peach or plum tasted like until I moved here.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:55 AM on July 31, 2008


look, I can understand why you feel that way, but I'm not making this stuff up. It may not be collusion on the part of banks and check cashing places, but there's a much larger complex of self-interest on the part of banks, commercial retail business, and the government to keep things this way. Banks don't make a lot of money off of poor people, because they make their money investing the money people deposit in them. An entire community of people who are constantly draining their accounts to pay their bills doesn't give them enough incentive to pay the cost of opening a new place. And really, you don't have to think of business as a monolithic entity, you just have to think of corporations and lobbyists, and realize how many of them lobby for the same things in our goverment. For every law we've passed that does something like requiring seatbelts in cars there has been a substantial lobbying effort by companies within that industry to kill the bill, and these efforts are coordinated by a lobbying concern that takes money from corporations in that sector so that - despite their being competitors - their dollars all work together against the public interest. It's not a conspiracy, and it's not some monolithic entity called "business," it's just the nature of political corruption and it's very real.

Put another way: even though it makes a nice simple picture in our minds to think so, there is no actual evidence to say that poor people wouldn't use a bank if it opened in their neighborhood. it's just easy to think that that's why the banks don't open there.
posted by shmegegge at 11:56 AM on July 31, 2008


Late to this, but...

I'm all for eating healthy, or just healthier eating. However, the marketing of 'healthy' is part of the problem.

An "evil" McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 510 calories.

A "healthy" 16 oz Chunky Strawberry Smoothie from Jamba Juice has 570.

It's all a sales game. I agree with what a lot of people said way upthread -- find a way to provide access to fresh, healthy fruits vegetables to people who can't access them otherwise. (In a lot of inner city areas, there are no big grocery stores. Gotta get your greens at the corner store, and how appetizing is that?)

There are programs popping up in SF (and in other cities, I assume) that reclaim vacant lots, turning them into vegetable gardens. The produce is distributed at low or no cost to low-income families in the neighborhood. Sorta like community gardens, but without requiring the labor of people who are already working two jobs to make ends meet.

There are so many ways to chip away at the problem of obesity among the working poor. And if everyone wasn't so damned concerned about the fucking bottom line, we'd be chip-chip-chipping already.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:56 AM on July 31, 2008


The art used with the LA Times article has a sign for a Pollo Loco, which I always considered one of the healthier options for fast food eating. Shouldn't they have a picture of McDonalds or Fatburger or something? (I realize there's a Fosters Freeze in the sign as well.)
posted by camcgee at 11:58 AM on July 31, 2008


An "evil" McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 510 calories.

A "healthy" 16 oz Chunky Strawberry Smoothie from Jamba Juice has 570.


I don't know from smoothies, but I do know that the number of calories is neither sufficient nor necessary to judge how healthy a food item is.
posted by DU at 11:59 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


there is no actual evidence to say that poor people wouldn't use a bank if it opened in their neighborhood. it's just easy to think that that's why the banks don't open there

as you touched on earlier, the problem is that "CD" means different things to rich people and poor people.
posted by yort at 12:00 PM on July 31, 2008


In Portland Oregon, residents of the Hawthone District (think hippie, green and with money) galvanized and thwarted McDonald's plans to drop a site into their neighborhood. The was pretty big news in Portland for awhile This was probalby ten years ago. A grassroots thing.

Also in Portaland, the fast food chains are clustered around each other- and usually in the poorer neighborhoods.
posted by captainsohler at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2008


"A guilty pleasure of mine around the world. Weirdly it really doesn't seem as enjoyable in it's country of origin."

I thought about that when I was abroad


Actually I *started* abroad, and then was distinctly unimpressed when I tried them out in the US. Maybe it's a Seattle thing.

When are you going to get Nandos over here? Mmmm...
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on July 31, 2008


as you touched on earlier, the problem is that "CD" means different things to rich people and poor people.

this is certainly true. fwiw, I don't even know what a bank-type CD is, though I've heard of it. What I will say, though, is that I'd be very surprised if Bank of America, for instance, couldn't figure out a way to market themselves to the poor.
posted by shmegegge at 12:06 PM on July 31, 2008


shmegegge,

I never said poor people wouldn't use a bank, although they might not. What I took issue with was the idea that banks somehow benefit from poor people being poor. Specifically, you said that there was "significant interest on the part of businesses to prevent poor people from saving their money and to make sure that they go substantially into debt." This is true for the small number of companies that make their money off of people going into debt. Check cashing places are one, H&R Block is another, and they both market heavily in low income communities for this reason. I would agree that that is a serious problem.

The problem with your argument, is that you extend it from the specific companies that do make money off poor people being in debt to this entity that exists only in the fever dreams of radicals "Business." Not every business has any interest in keeping poor people in debt, in fact very few do, because people in debt don't have much money buy things with and when they borrow to buy things, they frequently can't pay it back.

You haven't addressed that weakness in your argument. Instead, you talk in vague terms of political corruption. Lobbyists are not the reason there aren't any banks in the ghetto; there aren't any banks in the ghetto because no one has money to put in them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:09 PM on July 31, 2008


"Why do you think that is? I ask because, having lived all over the country, L.A. is easily the place I've lived with the best, most affordable produce. I don't think I knew what a good peach or plum tasted like until I moved here."

Really? I was surprised when I moved here at how low-quality even a fair chunk of the stuff at the farmer's markets was, compared to Ann Arbor or Ypsi (never really lived in Detroit proper, and all the grocery shopping I did there was with a car and knowing the Eastern Market).

I had been putting it down to the long transport times from any place where stuff can really grow, especially combined with the limited irrigation, which would skew towards massive agribusiness. And while I can occasionally find great produce at Whole Foods, here WF has an insane markup versus their stores near where I lived.

Trader Joe's is affordable and mediocre, and Ralphs and Alberstons are both a bit lamer (though it depends, because sometimes Alberstons gets randomly great stuff, like the bunch of broccoli that they had just a couple of weeks ago).

But the best apples around here are Fujis shipped from Washington, and the corn is abysmal. The plums are really good around here, though, as are the apricots and nectarines and pluots and all those other weird hybrids. And we've had really great tomatoes for the last couple of weeks.
posted by klangklangston at 12:14 PM on July 31, 2008


"What I took issue with was the idea that banks somehow benefit from poor people being poor."

Banks issue credit cards, often to folks that they probably shouldn't, and credit card debt is a fast way to penury.
posted by klangklangston at 12:16 PM on July 31, 2008


One of the problems with banks versus check cashers is that poor people have very little to save and banks make their money loaning saved money to others and charging interest. The other issue is that banks usually want you to have money in the bank to cash a check. If you have a $500 check and only $50 in the bank, the bank may not be willing to cash your check or may only be willing to give you $50 until said check clears. The check casher will cash your $500 check and give you $490 right now.

Also, a lot of banks don't want people coming inside. They want customers to do direct deposit and use the ATM machines. Poor people don't always have the kind of jobs that provide direct deposit.

I agree the check cashers are a blight but for someone who just wants a check cashed and who doesn't have savings, the bank doesn't make sense.
posted by shoesietart at 12:17 PM on July 31, 2008


What I took issue with was the idea that banks somehow benefit from poor people being poor. Specifically, you said that there was "significant interest on the part of businesses to prevent poor people from saving their money and to make sure that they go substantially into debt." This is true for the small number of companies that make their money off of people going into debt. Check cashing places are one, H&R Block is another, and they both market heavily in low income communities for this reason. I would agree that that is a serious problem.

look, normally there's nothing I'd like more than to bust out all the research I could find and sit down and have this discussion and see where I'm right and where you are. seriously. the fact is that it's a looooooooooong discussion to have, and it's deeply rooted in all sorts of social ills in ways that are complicated and which I don't completely understand myself. So, unfortunately, i don't have the time. I hope someone here in the thread can point people to a book or an article or something that'll explain what I'm getting at better than I can, because if I sit here trying to make my case without providing statistics and research on this, and if you were to make yours the same way, then neither of us is doing any one any good. So, as much as I hate to, I'm gonna have to take the coward's way out and just back out of this one. Sorry about this. What I'll say is that it's important to remember that a lot of those "companies that make their money off of people going into debt" that you mentioned are actually banks, since banks tend to run credit card companies.

Otherwise, though, if I got into this conversation the simple fact is that I'd be a really poor contributor and nobody would be wiser for it. But the economics of poverty is just too big a topic, with too much important data to gloss over, for me to shit all over it with my gut reactions and uninformed logical leaps. Sorry.
posted by shmegegge at 12:28 PM on July 31, 2008


Okay, I had my unvoiced suspicions about this, and Guy Smiley completely affirmed them.

As much as this is a ban on unhealthy food served by greedy corporations, it's also a ban on healthy food served by generous individuals. No vegan wraps, no cheap noodle houses, no fruit smoothies, no fucking taquerias.

This is not a condemnation of fast food chains, it's an explicit endorsement of the less healthy, more expensive, less community-oriented OliveTGIAppleChilis fare.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:29 PM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can always cash a check at the bank that issued it though, without having an account, right?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:31 PM on July 31, 2008


for someone who just wants a check cashed and who doesn't have savings, the bank doesn't make sense.

Sure it does. A lot of banks offer free checking with no minimum balance. That beats a check cashing fee any day.
posted by Miko at 12:39 PM on July 31, 2008


If people aren't eating right because they can't afford it, the city government needs to open produce markets in poor neighborhoods and let farms get free stalls as long as they sell fruits and vegetables cheaply enough. If there's going to be any banning at all, ban the sale of fresh produce in rich neighborhoods so rich people have to support the markets in poor neighborhoods.

About poor people eat at fast food places because that's what they can frickin' afford and similar remarks:

It's cheaper to eat McDonald's hamburgers and french fries than to buy your own hamburger, buns, and french fries at the grocery and make them at home? It doesn't take long to cook stuff like that, and at least you'd know the cook had clean hands.
posted by pracowity at 12:42 PM on July 31, 2008


Poor people don't always have the kind of jobs that provide direct deposit.

What if I could direct-deposit your check at your local check-cashing place? Would it still be a blight? Poor people like poor shite, that's why there's a 24k gold place INSIDE the check-cashing place.

I'll keep talking up property values until someone agrees with me. It ain't about paternalism, it ain't about no healthcare. Just get rid of the corporate-sponsored joints first, because they have big pockets 'n power, insert currently-popular hipster places, attract hipsters & wannabes, rezone Mr. Live-Chicken Fresh-Killed and Señor Sidewalk Fruitster back to the stone ages, slap some paint about the place and you have Phase I gentrification (exodus of the minorities) and thus your tax base increases and social expenditures decrease. The only budget woe you'll have left is deciding to whether or not to keep the dog/sk8tr park open past 8 pm.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:42 PM on July 31, 2008


In Portland Oregon, residents of the Hawthone District (think hippie, green and with money) galvanized and thwarted McDonald's plans to drop a site into their neighborhood. The was pretty big news in Portland for awhile This was probalby ten years ago. A grassroots thing.

I remember this, and still laugh when I look at the eyesore of a condo they built in that lot instead. In the end the victory was only symbolic, as that condo signaled the end of Hawthorne as a working-class neighborhood and its rebirth as a upper-class shopping enclave.

Granted, this is off-topic, but I found it interesting how, at least in Portland, fast-food chains are appropriate in certain areas until those areas become desirable to the better-heeled.

That and I'm out of hyphens.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:42 PM on July 31, 2008


Ah, I see jsavimbi is making a similar point.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:43 PM on July 31, 2008


You can always cash a check at the bank that issued it though, without having an account, right?

Usually. Although if it's a payroll check most banks will charge you a fee for cashing it. When I was without a bank a few years back I know that Bank of America was charging five dollars per paycheck that they cashed. That's still significantly less expensive than cashing with a check cashing service, but it's still a bit of a bite. Of course, if there are no banks in your neighborhood and you don't have a car, going to the check cashing joint down the street might seem more attractive than paying to ride the bus across town in order to pay for a bank to cash your check, especially since bank hours are mainly when many people are at work. You can't get your check cashed by the bank's ATM.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:45 PM on July 31, 2008


Really? I was surprised when I moved here at how low-quality even a fair chunk of the stuff at the farmer's markets was,

The farmer's market I go to here (Plummer's Park on Mondays) may be slightly below the quality of the New York City greenmarkets, but they make up for it in prices. Same with Trader Joe's, which I find remarkable for the price (again, NYC may have warped me). But the best quality/price ratio I've found in L.A. in my short time here are the Asian markets -- I like the Bangkok Market on Melrose, although I haven't tried many others. Really pretty bok choy, herbs, hot peppers and loads of other stuff that clearly has a high turnover (the hot peppers I bought at Ralph's were half-rotten on the insides). Cheap, too. Plus, you can buy a bag of fresh rice noodles (!) that could feed a family for 2.50.

The Bangkok Market, I should note, is also in a pretty lousy section of Melrose.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:50 PM on July 31, 2008


Oh America, you were once so beautiful, such a bright ray of hope in an oppressed world yearning to be free. Look at you now. You've changed, and you are ugly.

I hope this is tongue in cheek, because if you read our history...we were always pretty damn ugly.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:52 PM on July 31, 2008


A lot of banks charge non customers for cashing a check. See my earlier comment that banks don't want customers coming inside. You don't need as many tellers if you can make customers line up at the ATM. The tellers are for the wealthier or merchant clients; the regular joes can only see a teller once or twice a month before they get charged. At least that was Bank of America's policy. Shit like that always bugged me so I wouldn't bank with them even though I worked there (as the result of a merger).
posted by shoesietart at 12:54 PM on July 31, 2008


Sure it does. A lot of banks offer free checking with no minimum balance. That beats a check cashing fee any day.


Sometimes the bank won't cash your check if you don't have enough money in the bank. Try cashing a check for $672 when you've got a balance of $4.02. It's not going to happen unless you're lucky enough to use the same bank as the check writer.
posted by shoesietart at 1:03 PM on July 31, 2008


Ah, I see jsavimbi is making a similar point.

At least there are two of us here.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:05 PM on July 31, 2008


shmegegge: "[...] I'd be very surprised if Bank of America, for instance, couldn't figure out a way to market themselves to the poor."

I think you'd be surprised — what would Bank of America have to offer that a poor person would be interested in? Most people living paycheck-to-paycheck or worse wouldn't keep enough in a deposit account to make it worth the bank's costs (no-minimum-balance "free checking" accounts are typically a loss leader anyway), particularly if you expect them to maintain a B&M neighborhood branch in a high-crime area. Most low-income areas are populated by renters, so there's no mortgages to be sold; car loans wouldn't be enough either (and most car financing is done through dealer partnerships anyway).

The only financial services I can imagine doing well are exactly the sort of things I suspect you'd object to for being exploitative: payday loans, no-account-required check cashing, high-interest or secured credit cards, maybe underwriting retail financing offers (furniture rental, "buy this stereo for $29.99 a month", etc.). But those niches are already well-exploited, and there's not much room for newcomers. Not to mention they're hardly the sort of business you probably want to encourage.

I think you're underestimating the cost of maintaining bank branches as well. I've lived in exurban areas where the median home price is a quarter to half a mil and everyone and their dog has a mortgage, savings, checking, investments, HELOC, credit card, the works, and the banks are shuttering branches.

Companies like BoA are driven purely by the profit motive. If they thought they could make money, by hook or by crook, by opening branches on every block in Compton, I've no doubt that they'd break ground tomorrow. That they're not doing so suggests strongly that there's no money in it.

The proliferation of check-cashing operations and payday loan sharks in American ghettos is a symptom of the deep-rooted problems there; treating it with addressing the underlying cause isn't going to be productive.

Also, communities where the major sources of economic activity are illegal enterprises, or where there's widespread tax evasion, probably aren't going to be very conducive to switching over from cash to debit cards and checking/savings accounts.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:07 PM on July 31, 2008


Asshole health-conscious yuppies/hipsters.....

health-concious ... people? We are all people, dude, regardless of what we like to eat :(

Also, it looks like you have a profesional job, are possibly (relatively) young, and live in an urban environment. Aren't you a yuppie by definition?

I'm not saying that fast food is good food, I'm saying that the idea that anyone has any right to stop someone from doing what they want to their own body is abhorrent to me.

Three cheers for the Inalienable Rights Enforcement Iniative. My first amendment right to freedom of religion (i am entheogenist) has been suppressed for far fucking too long.

The fast-food moratorium in certain L.A. neighborhoods? Bah. Several others have said this already, but I'll repeat. There is no loss of personal liberty here.

IT'S COMMERCIAL ZONING, FOLKS!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:08 PM on July 31, 2008


News flash: poor people eat at fast food places because that's what they can frickin' afford.

Actually, poor people eat at fast food places because it's the only place they can afford to eat out. Here's a news flash for you: fast food is fucking expensive! If you are dirt poor, you eat at home. Eating out is a luxury, and if you can afford to do it, you will, if only to prove that you aren't dirt poor.

It's not about farmer's markets (although they are nice), because you can always buy produce at asian or mexican markets - and the prices are waaaaay cheaper than the farmer's market. When I'm really broke, I can eat for a week on less than $20 - and that includes a whole lot of veggies because meat is expensive.

What policy makers don't understand is that staying home and eating your veggies to a person raised in certain economic classes (I'm speaking from the blue collar/working class here) is not considered a cool thing to do. Eating out, eating meat, being served by someone else (even if it's at Denny's) means that you're not on the bottom rung. It's important to people to be able to do that, and telling them to stay home and eat their greens isn't going to be met with much enthusiasm.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:09 PM on July 31, 2008


It's cheaper to eat McDonald's hamburgers and french fries than to buy your own hamburger, buns, and french fries at the grocery and make them at home?

I would say yes. Can you make a hamburger with cheese, onions, pickles, and a bun for $.99 a home? What sort of meat was it? Sure, I can easily make a veggie sandwich for that much or less, but can people really buy meat as cheap (or vegetables) as McDonald's gets it?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:10 PM on July 31, 2008


Oh, and the reason poor people use check cashing places, even when they can get a cheap checking account? Because check cashing places don't know your business. You're anonymous, and to a lot of people, that's a safe thing to be. They also don't have to run into "rich" people there, who will look down their noses because they have more money in the bank. I know a lot of people who have serious anxiety about "authority" and to them, anyone working in a bank is an authority. They would rather deal with a clerk behind bullet-proof glass than talk to a teller.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:13 PM on July 31, 2008


In honor of this thread, I went to the KenTacoHut in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood, and had a sad bowl.
posted by nomisxid at 1:14 PM on July 31, 2008


It's cheaper to eat McDonald's hamburgers and french fries than to buy your own hamburger, buns, and french fries at the grocery and make them at home?

yeah, I think it is. McDonald's has the experience of optimizing their supply chain.

The "problem", such as it is, however, isn't that hamburger or whatever is costly in a store.

It's that free-market capitalism has seen the evolution of tasty, affordable fast food at the expense of actually, you know, nourishment.

Food has become a form of entertainment rather than nourishment, for deleterious long-term effects we'll see down the road.

The free market fundamentalists among us say, "Great! Let'er Rip!", while the nanny statists are wondering what gov't can do to mitigate these trends.

People think short-term rewards, not long term effects.

This is a problem.
posted by yort at 1:14 PM on July 31, 2008


Also, communities where the major sources of economic activity are illegal enterprises, or where there's widespread tax evasion, probably aren't going to be very conducive to switching over from cash to debit cards and checking/savings accounts.

Nice, glad to see your bigotry shining through in superscript. I'll broadly assume from your comments that white-collared crime, money-laundering, tax evasion and profit repatriation is virtually non-existent and in most cases it's just a harmless misinterpretation of GAAP. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:14 PM on July 31, 2008


of course if they were putting a moratorium on medical marijuana outlets in those neighborhoods, people here would be outraged over that

I'm pretty sure those are already illegal, at least under federal law. Since medical marijuana is already illegal but 'decriminalized' all medical marijuana operations already operate outside any regulatory frameworks.

What's stunning about this is that it's a fairly straightforward zoning ordinance; cities all over the country (and the world) restrict what kinds of business can go where. That's why you probably don't have a steal mill right next door. Would you want one?

Also, the idea that poor people eat at fast food places because they like it more is ridiculous. It's entirely possible for fast-food places to be successful if they're more economically efficient then other types of restaurants, even if their prices aren't that much lower or they are more popular.

On the other hand, it's not like sit-down restaurants are necessarily going to be more healthy, so while this could make the neighborhoods 'dining experience' better, it may not make anyone healthier. What they should be doing is subsidizing restaurants that actually serve good food. If we had universal healthcare, those subsides would pay for themselves, in the form of lower healthcare costs. But we don't.

Those arguing for more cops to the solve the problem also need to explain how they would eliminate police corruption and general bad police behavior that seem to be a problem in L.A.

I think policing a city like L.A. is going to be intrinsically more difficult due the massive sprawl then a city like NYC.
posted by delmoi at 1:17 PM on July 31, 2008


I think you'd be surprised — what would Bank of America have to offer that a poor person would be interested in?

I have no idea. I feel like they'd figure it out, though.

But to your larger point: that they have no interest in doing so. I completely agree. I'd made that same point elsewhere in the thread, myself. I was just responding, as an aside, to the idea poor people wouldn't necessarily know what to do with a bank if they had one locally. I believe, though I couldn't prove it, that if banks were interested they could easily market themselves to the poor, even if it were through the kind of shifty zero information shenanigans that the car companies use to sell Hummers and Escalades.
posted by shmegegge at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2008


Your mandatory morning urinalysis has detected too much sodium. No bacon for you. Now tell me about these dreams you've been having.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:22 PM on July 31, 2008


Nice, glad to see your bigotry shining through in superscript. I'll broadly assume from your comments that white-collared crime, money-laundering, tax evasion and profit repatriation is virtually non-existent and in most cases it's just a harmless misinterpretation of GAAP.

Compared to the levels of income based on illegal activity in a low income neighborhood, white collar crime is practically non-existent. There many (poor)communities in America where the majority of the local economy is based off criminal activity, and even more where substantial numbers of people are evading taxes. This just simply isn't the case in affluent communities. Of course, white collar crime does exist, but if you think that the entire economy of an affluent suburb is built on white collar crime, you're wrong.

This isn't bigotry; it's the truth. It doesn't saying anything about the people involved in these crimes other than that they live in a place where the drug trade is the only available means of support. Refusing to acknowledge that these communities are built on illegal activity because there are some people in other communities who also commit crimes? That neither makes sense, nor helps anyone.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:22 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is no loss of personal liberty here.

IT'S COMMERCIAL ZONING, FOLKS!


That doesn't mean there's no loss of personal liberty here, that just means there's a popular, well-precedented form of loss of personal liberty here. The perspective is appreciated, though. And from a public health standpoint, "you can't build a new restaurant that's as convenient as your poor customers want" probably isn't as bad as the more typical "you can't build commercial and residential developments densely enough or intermixed enough to make walkable neighborhoods" zoning laws. But they're both instances of people having some of their freedom of choice taken away. And I suspect that if this ban lasts long enough to matter, it'll be another case of the best of intentions being foiled by unintended consequences.
posted by roystgnr at 1:31 PM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


lattiboy, it's not the health-conscious yuppies you need to be yelling at. It's the developers who want the land those free-standing buildings were on.

Cap Hill is going to be 99% condos by 2010. They aren't going to let a few little fast food joints stand in their way.

For those who are arguing this as if some fat cat franchise is going to suffer...I wish you understood how ludicrous that appears. This is no barrier to the free market. This is giving an area a little time to stabilise with what it already has, and then the free market is open again.

And the apartheid comment wasn't about the moratorium itself, but what the current food options are offering to people compared to the burden they place on the area.
posted by batmonkey at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2008


@ Bulgaroktonos: sorry, but I'm going to dismiss your arguments offhand until you provide some background data about your "truths". Your narrow view of what makes a criminal is, well, narrow.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:34 PM on July 31, 2008


Sure it does. A lot of banks offer free checking with no minimum balance

I searched for Wamu locations near 90221 (Compton) and found 4 ATMs in CVS stores, plus the Paramount Financial Center, an actual branch.

My zip code has 5 actual Wamu branches, 3 in Sunnyvale and 1 branch in each of the neighboring cities.

'course, Wamu, the "Home of Free Checking", has been losing $1B/qtr for a while so perhaps this free checking marketing approach has some strings attached.

I get free checking from WFC by agreeing to a $100/mo auto-transfer to savings (which I then reverse online).
posted by yort at 1:36 PM on July 31, 2008


heh, this reminds me that a plan to put in a Wendy's at Brommer & 17th in Santa Cruz was shot down by the neighborhood back in 2002-2003. Something about attracting the wrong element, traffic, and lowering property values IIRC.
posted by yort at 1:39 PM on July 31, 2008


Do you really need "background data" to know that the economy of many of the neighborhoods in the inner cities is built on the drug trade? Do you really?

My "narrow view" of what constitutes a criminal is this: someone who breaks the law. Right now it's a crime to sell or use drugs. This isn't a moral judgment; it's definitional. I'm not saying everyone who does these things belongs in jail. I work in a public defender's office for crying out loud, I actively don't think these people belong in jail. I would rather we stop prosecuting drug users/street level dealers immediately, and seriously look at not prosecuting anyone for a drug crime ever again. My opinion doesn't change the world, however. The fact that I would LIKE people not to be criminals doesn't change the fact that that what they are doing is illegal. One effect of that illegality is that those people are going to be hesitant about using banks/involving themselves in any dealings where mainstream society will concern itself with where their money comes from. That's not bigotry, and it's not especially controversial, I have no idea why you think it is.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:42 PM on July 31, 2008


People who are on very low incomes, as well as being "poor" in the classic sense, are often also very time-poor. Not having very much money eats up a lot of time. They are also very often exhausted by hard work and stress (and, in a vicious circle, poor diet). That's often why fast food, and low-quality ready-meals, are a often an appealing option to people on low incomes.

Poor housing has a role to play as well. The kitchens are often inadequate or insanitary in low-quality rented housing. And poor housing is exhausting - it saps your health and damages your sleep.

So fast food may be technically a "choice" made by people on low incomes, often it isn't much of a choice. I don't really know what to think about the LA initiative. The motives seem to be pure, but without addressing poverty itself, it's not going to do much on its own.
posted by WPW at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


@jsavimbi: MetaFilter hates the @.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:53 PM on July 31, 2008


I agree whole-heartedly with WPW here, this is a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions, and it's a half-hearted, ill-informed sort of good intention to boot. I think this is motivated more by self-righteous lefty hatred of big corporations who aren't Mac more than any lasting concern for poor black and latino people.
posted by Mister_A at 1:55 PM on July 31, 2008


That's not bigotry, and it's not especially controversial, I have no idea why you think it is.

I think the bigotry comes from broad-brush assertions of the economic base of minority neighborhoods in LA being the cash economy surrounding drug redistribution.

What percentage of residents of South Central receive drug income, and what percentage of their income is drug income?

As a description of the business challenge banks face in the area, I think your hypothesis fails.
posted by yort at 1:55 PM on July 31, 2008


"Do you really need "background data" to know that the economy of many of the neighborhoods in the inner cities is built on the drug trade? Do you really?"

Yes, actually. I find it hard to believe that the entire economy would be built on the drug trade, and would like to see some numbers that would back it up, because otherwise it sounds like a right-wing "just so" story, like that increases in minimum wage predict long term unemployment.
posted by klangklangston at 2:00 PM on July 31, 2008


I live by one simple rule: I don't buy anything that I'm not supposed to have......cept single malt whiskey.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:01 PM on July 31, 2008


Bulgaroktonos,

The problem he's having is that the idea of inner city incomes being built on the drug trade is largely based on perception rather than data. Ideally, yes, we should all need background data to know any of these things. If you were to tell me that certain baltimore neighborhoods had most of their money tied up in drugs I'd believe it (to an extent) because David Simon did extensive reporting on that very fact for a while, but these are smaller . If you were to tell me that that's true of all inner cities I'd raise an eyebrow at that. I'd want to know age data for this information, neighborhood data, demographic data, etc... These things aren't universal truths, they vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, and most people are poor because they DON'T deal drugs and instead work some shit job that pays them less than they're worth. drug dealers, if they're successful, make a lot of money.

although, now that I think about it, I shouldn't be speaking for someone else.
posted by shmegegge at 2:02 PM on July 31, 2008


Recommended.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:08 PM on July 31, 2008


Free checking doesn't matter if the bank won't cash your check because you have no money in the bank. This is WAMU's policy too.

Poor people don't work at Intel. They work for Aunt Mary at her in-home daycare. Or they work for McDonalds or if they're lucky WalMart.

There is a lot of black market money in poor neighborhoods, some of which is from criminal enterprises but not all. Aunt Mary may pay in check or cash depending on what she needs to report to keep her child care license. She may get paid with cash from a woman who got the money from her drug dealer boyfriend. You can take cash to the check casher and get a money order to pay the rent, which was earned selling hot clothes. There's a big cash economy from babysitting, haircutting/braiding, car repair, drugs and stolen goods.


Most people like fast food but no community should have fast food as its only restaurant option. If you're ill because of obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure, there should be other choices. When you see a loved one lose a foot because of diabetes or your sister stops going out because she's too fat and her knees hurt too much, you do have some motivation to improve your habits. I've seen people change when their health started to deteriorate. As I said earlier, the effectiveness of this moratorium will be determined by whether or not better food choices come into the community. There should also be an outreach program to encourage better eating habits and to provide incentives for mom-and-pop places to open.
posted by shoesietart at 2:13 PM on July 31, 2008


drug dealers, if they're successful, make a lot of money.

As a starting point, this is not true. Like I said, I work in a Public Defender's office, I see drug dealers all the time, and they're not very well off. Sure there's someone who gets rich off it, but there are many more people who don't(as in any industry).

I'd also point out that I said "there are communities" not "all communities full of black people" or whatever nonsense the people responding to me must have read instead of what I actually I wrote. It's not all inner city communities, but there are places where I believe this to be true. Maybe there's data about this out there, but I don't know where it is. The only thing I have to go on is my experience, which says that there are plenty of people selling drugs because they have no other options, no other way to earn a living, no other jobs available in their community. That tells me that their community's economy must be built on drug trafficking, because there's obviously nothing else there.

I'm not sure how I became the bigot in this. There's nothing bigoted about acknowledging the central role drugs play in the life of the inner city. This isn't saying "all blacks are drug dealers" or that we should just lock all drug dealers up or whatever you think I'm saying. I'm saying that to understand the problem fully you need to face that these are not poor communities with a few drug dealers; these are communities where the number of people and the amount of money involved in the drug trade is great enough that if it all stopped tomorrow, there would be significant economic consequences.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:16 PM on July 31, 2008


Do you really need "background data" to know that the economy of many of the neighborhoods in the inner cities is built on the drug trade? Do you really?

Ok, we've narrowed it down to the drug trade in many of the neighborhoods in the inner cities as the root of all criminal activity. At least we can now rule out rural America, suburbia and certain select neighborhoods in the inner cities throughout this great land of ours.

Wait, so what you're saying is that many of the 206,317,862 people who live in metropolitan US areas owe the foundation of their community to the tax-evading drug trade. Two thirds of a nation depend on one source of income, including derivative jobs like yours. That's fascinating. What do the other 100,000,000 do for a living? And what do these 100+ million look like? Generally. I need to spot them.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:27 PM on July 31, 2008


That tells me that their community's economy must be built on drug trafficking, because there's obviously nothing else there.

well, to be clear, i'm just trying to support the point that inner city economies are not necessarily built entirely off of drugs. i don't think you're a racist, and I can't speak for whoever it was that said you were.

but the point that I take slight issue with is this idea that there's obviously nothing else there. that's the whole point, is that there is. it just pays shit. there are janitors, fast food workers, teachers, truck drivers, artists, anything you can name, there's someone there doing it for too little money.

There's nothing bigoted about acknowledging the central role drugs play in the life of the inner city.

I agree, but it's important to remember that what you had said included the phrase "Also, communities where the major sources of economic activity are illegal enterprises." I'm inclined to agree that there's widespread tax evasion, but I don't know it for a fact, but the point is i'd agree. but i'm also inclined to believe that most poor people earn their money honestly, even if they earn it under the table. this is why i agreed when I said that I'd need to see some background data to support the idea that drugs fuel poor neighborhood economies.
posted by shmegegge at 2:31 PM on July 31, 2008


jsavimbi: "Nice, glad to see your bigotry shining through in superscript. I'll broadly assume from your comments that white-collared crime, money-laundering, tax evasion and profit repatriation is virtually non-existent and in most cases it's just a harmless misinterpretation of GAAP. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge."

Actually the reason I only included it as an afterthought is because I think it's probably one of the lesser issues that would stop bank development, and frankly I hesitated to mention it at all because I didn't want to get into a big digression on the topic. Oh, well. Now that we're here, we're here.

It's foolish to try and ignore the effect of illegal economies in many areas, especially low-income ones. This is not necessarily an urban phenomenon — there are many rural areas where illegal activities generate vastly more income than legitimate ones, and where many people underreport what income they do make for fear of losing benefits or for other reasons — but that's not really relevant to the point at hand, which had to do with urban banks.

And lest you think I'm only thinking about the drug trade and prostitution, I'm not — there's a whole range of activities which are various shades of illegal, and might cause someone to be uncomfortable depositing their income in a bank account. Yes, you have drugs and sex work, but you also have everything from gypsy cab operators, to unlicensed food trucks, to guys selling loosies on the street. You'll find all of these in any major U.S. city. (The way the regulatory and permit systems are handled practically guarantees many otherwise-legitimate businesses operating on thin margins in low-income areas will be illegal; even obtaining a business license can be prohibitively expensive in some areas.) The illegal economy encompasses a tremendous amount of economic activity, including a fair amount of real wealth generation, and it's not something that ought to be dismissed because it's unseemly to discuss.

White-collar crime, including fraud, money-laundering, etc. are all significant problems, but they're not really germane to why BoA isn't falling over itself to open branches in Compton or West Baltimore. I'm not sure why my failing to drag them out for a flogging in a discussion on a very particular issue where they're in no way relevant justifies your accusations of bigotry.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:31 PM on July 31, 2008


Food has become a form of entertainment rather than nourishment, for deleterious long-term effects we'll see down the road.

Isn't this the truth. There is nothing wrong with enjoying food. But it has become a sense of entertainment.



If we made healthy food affordable, quick, and easy, and junk food expensive, slow, and relatively difficult, people would buy the healthy food.

I agree with you. I understand your point. It sounds good, but how would you like to go about this? How will we make healthy food convenient and more affordable and junk food less so? Will the hamburgers be locked in a lock box with a waiting period? It sounds like your family is making some minor changes and still cooking at home and not eating fast food. Substituting white rice in the bag for white Minute Rice isn't much of a jump. You are in the habit of preparing food at home with vegetables and it has probably been this way for your family for a long time, probably for generations. Cooking at home is almost always healthier than eating out.

Of course, healthy, relatively inexpensive meals can be made at home, but obviously this is not happening. From what Parasite Unseen is saying, there is access to healthy food in low-income areas of LA. Again, it's a culture of eating. A bad habit if you will. I see it all of the time with non compliant patients at work, in every socio-economic class. For the people that desire healthier fare and are unable to access it, I sympathize. But, believe me when I say many people are unwilling, or unable because of habits, to change their eating, no matter the availability.

And correct me if I'm wrong, fast food can't be the only restaurant choice in South L.A.

When you see a loved one lose a foot because of diabetes or your sister stops going out because she's too fat and her knees hurt too much, you do have some motivation to improve your habits.


Some people will. Some people won't.

In a perfect world the people of South LA would not be marginalized and "forced" to eat fast food. In a perfect world the state of Mississippi wouldn't be the fattest state in the nation. The obesity problem can't be solved by preventing new construction, though I do support the efforts of this community and their initiative to bring about some kind of change.
posted by LoriFLA at 2:33 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


@jsavimbi: MetaFilter hates the @.

Where's the rule book?

I'm not sure why my failing to drag them out for a flogging in a discussion on a very particular issue where they're in no way relevant justifies your accusations of bigotry.


My accusation of bigotry was focused on the implication that those poor people who depend on check-cashing outlets are engaged in criminal activity and thus forgo the traditional banking system even if the option existed. With one broad stroke you labeled the working poor as criminals.

Not sure when was the last time I wrote a check for a gypsy cab, bought loosies with a money order or bartered for a burrito with a savings bond, but I can probably assure you that cash was always the preferred method.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:53 PM on July 31, 2008


Some people will. Some people won't.

That's somewhat true. But once you look beyond the level of the individual, it's pretty striking how law can have such a tremendous impact on public health. Think of seatbelts, for instance: despite an abundance of data available to everyone by the late 70s that they saved lives, most people were very reluctant to buckle up, or buckle up their kids, until laws began to make it mandatory. Today there are a small number of seatbelt holdouts who still don't change their habits, but they're rare, and so most people have adjusted their behavior - initially to avoid the risk of a citation, but that became habit, and is today extremely normal. Similarly, tobacco use has declined drastically in the U.S., partially as a result of restricting where cigarettes could be sold (no more vending machines, arcades, etc), and who they could be sold to (ID programs to prevent sales to minors).

From a public health standpoint, habits are behaviors, and behaviors can be influenced by law and by the environment. Seeing this measure as one means of changing habits through changing the environment could make some sense.
posted by Miko at 3:35 PM on July 31, 2008


Where's the rule book?

You're looking at it. It's a community norms thing.

posted by Miko at 3:36 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not sure when was the last time I wrote a check for a gypsy cab, bought loosies with a money order or bartered for a burrito with a savings bond, but I can probably assure you that cash was always the preferred method.

That's ... sort of my point. If you're running a gypsy cab, offering daycare out of your apartment, selling burritos from an unlicensed truck, fixing cars on the street, or any number of other not-uncommon but technically illegal occupations, you're probably not going to go down to BoA and open up a Merchant Checking account, get a credit card terminal, and start accepting Amex. There's not much benefit and it potentially creates all sorts of problems.

I'm not making any moral judgment on the activities involved (in fact I think that any regulatory system that makes such a large amount of otherwise-legitimate productive activity technically illegal is pretty broken), but simply pointing out that an all-cash economy doesn't create a tremendous amount of demand for banking services, and this lack of demand is probably a contributing factor to the lack of bank branches in low-income urban areas.

Anyway, I think I've beaten this particular dead horse enough. Suffice it to say that if there was money to be had in opening low-income urban bank branches, BoA and the other megabanks would be all over it. That they don't means there probably isn't; I don't think there's a conspiracy on the part of banks to deny services to anyone who could be profitably served otherwise.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:46 PM on July 31, 2008


While the stoppage may not have much effect this year, it will have an effect in years to come when restaurants go out of business and are not replaced. While giving people better food choices is a noble cause, it sounds like they aren't really doing that at all. Sit down restaurants weren't being stopped from coming into those neighborhoods before, what would be the incentive now? It doesn't sound like there are any special tax breaks or whatever for the type of businesses they are trying to attract.

This paternalistic attitude towards the poor really gets my goat. Those stupid fat poor people have got themselves in a pickle and we organic eating gym-goers with a college degree know what's good for them. Let's make joining a city soccer league part of the plan for the poor. They'll fall on their knees thanking us when they are all healthy.

And the idea behind "I pay my taxes to support their healthcare so I should have a say in their health," attitude doesn't help. Just where do you draw the line on that one? Right before they come knocking on your door?
posted by Foam Pants at 3:49 PM on July 31, 2008


grind the poor into paste and sell them to Sysco for making injection-molded 3D-technology chicken. problem solved. if you need me i'll be mowing down some trees in my SUV.
posted by quonsar at 3:55 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, Rebel! Betcha $20 bucks and a free feel you can't mow down that oak yonder. Better get a real good head of steam up first.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:59 PM on July 31, 2008


I understand your point. It sounds good, but how would you like to go about this?

I suggest that we go about it the same way we went about making the good food expensive and the bad food cheap: subsidies and sanctions. These are the underlying reasons why Americans tend to eat corn syrup rather than sugar, corn oil and shortening rather than lard and butter, and processed cereals rather than whole grains. None of these "habits" used to exist in this country, or even in the diets of people when they first came to this country -- they were all essentially manufactured by food companies who were trying to find cheaper ways to do business, encouraged by a government which was willing to pay people to grow a surplus of certain crops.

If we can pay people to produce a surplus of bad food, we can just as easily do so with good food; if we can develop and maintain a trillion-dollar transportation system that encourages companies to sell centrally-produced, long shelf-life products, we can just as easily spend some money on re-localizing our food, or on alternate distribution systems which encourage better food habits. For example, we've got lots of ranchers around here; they may talk a lot about tradition, but they're in it for the money, and many of them are already running on margin. Subsidies could easily convince them to stop raising beef on corn and supplements, in favor of more sustainable and area-appropriate lamb or bison. Those meats may seem "funny" now, but just as our parents did, we'll change our habits at the grocery store when the price and convenience is right. Like Miko said, don't underestimate the habit-changing power that environment has.
posted by vorfeed at 4:08 PM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


grind the poor into paste and sell them to Sysco for making injection-molded 3D-technology chicken. problem solved.

Nah. Send 'em over to Iraq to die over a fucking lie. Halliburton/KBR run the Pizza Huts and Burger Kings over there, so that should placate the libertarians worried about the fast food industry's long-term prospects. Plus you'll get cheaper gas for your tree-mowin' SUV, so it's win-win-win.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:24 PM on July 31, 2008


You're looking at it. It's a community norms thing.

My response was a joke. Sorry you didn't get it. Btw: I used it once, specifically at one person, and for a reason. Is subscript the new PA?

Kadin2048, I get what you're saying about BoA, and I'm with you on that, and even althought supermarket conspiracy has certainly been in the air, there are a number of banks, large and small, that operate in low-income areas. As do the check cashers.

What I'm unhappy with is how you tied in poverty, or its proxy, the American ghetto, with major sources of illegal economic activity and widespread tax evasion as the reason why poor people are, in your view, probably reluctant to adopt alternative financial products over cash. According to you, it must be crime and if that isn't a bigoted view of poor people, I don't know what is.
posted by jsavimbi at 4:26 PM on July 31, 2008


how would you like to go about this?

If I may let fancy take wing for a moment, and move into utopian fantasy, it would be good to see the encouragement - with premises and training - of community-run restaurants and cookshops, that sold simple, cheap food to eat in or take away, and would cook your ingredients for you on the spot. (Cookshops were quite common until about a hundred years ago, and still exist in the Far East.) The key thing about these places would be that they provided training in cooking, from the level of just seeing your potatoes baked for you while you wait, to the level of qualifications in catering. Combine these places with childcare facilities, subsidise premises, and exempt them from corporation tax, and they have a huge advantage over the fast food joints. Link them up with local suppliers; use their guaranteed business to bring in a farmers' market.

As I say, that's a utopian fantasy, a riff of wishful thinking. It's loosely based on the nationalised "British restaurants" that operated in the UK during the Second World War, which were (amazingly) very popular. But really poverty itself is the main problem.
posted by WPW at 4:29 PM on July 31, 2008


I agree, vorfeed. Thanks for your response. I'm not against sanctioning the sinners and rewarding more healthful food practice/business.

WPW, that's a good fantasy.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:34 PM on July 31, 2008


I've always wondered what no alchohol licenses within 3 miles of a greyhound station would look like.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:45 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Foam Pants said it most recently, but others have made similar comments:
"we organic eating gym-goers with a college degree know what's good for them"

1) People living in that area were part of the decision on the moratorium.

2) I have no degree, don't go to the gym, grew up in very similar neighbourhoods, currently live in one only a couple of steps further up the ladder, can only afford eating organic for about 1/3 of my diet...and I seriously and sincerely do not see the problem with this, as it will at least produce a counter data point to the current situation.

There's a lot of frothing in here allegedly on behalf of people that only a handful can actually identify with, and many of those who can identify think this is at least worth trying. Why are all the non-poor-neighbourhood folks so worked up?

I like WPW's dream. Mine is totally wishful thinking, with affordable daycare & afterschool centers, book stores, clinics, shops where the goods are manufactured right there in the neighbourhood, community gathering places as a respite from worry and violence, and all the rest of that crazy idealistic crap.
posted by batmonkey at 4:51 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


If we can pay people to produce a surplus of bad food, we can just as easily do so with good food;

Absolutely. A lot of people are surprised to learn that government funds heavily subsidize corn, wheat, and soy (and therefore meats), but the vast majority of subsidy programs don't apply to farmers who growing produce and fruit, which are considered "specialty crops." The subsidies are designed to suppress prices, be favorable to the bulk food industry (including fast food) and give the US a trade advantage in storable and long-shipping crops, among other political goals.

This is one real disincentive for farmers to choose to grow produce and to choose to diversify, and one important reason why fresh food is often more expensive than processed - a concrete result of how we choose to shape the food system through the application of federal funds.
posted by Miko at 4:51 PM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


This paternalistic attitude towards the poor really gets my goat. Those stupid fat poor people have got themselves in a pickle and we organic eating gym-goers with a college degree know what's good for them. Let's make joining a city soccer league part of the plan for the poor. They'll fall on their knees thanking us when they are all healthy.

One thing that the paternalism argument is missing that it was the council-woman for the district affected that spearheaded this effort, with more than a little help from community activists in her district. So it wasn't all just "They can't make better choices unless we force them to," it also had an element of "Help us make better choices as a community."
posted by klangklangston at 5:00 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Follow the money on this. Who instigated this legislature and who pushed it through? What connections do those individuals have with corporate interests?

This has nothing to do with protecting the local citizens from fast food. That's patently ludicrous, and an obvious explanation to keep the local people from arguing the point. If that were really the case, the ordinance would include cleaning up the establishments already there. This is about removing potential competition from the incumbent food establishments. They don't want anything to change. They don't want other businesses to come in and mess up their revenue.

It is unconstitutional.

It is unAmerican.

It is unfair.

It's wrong.

In many cases in the past, California has been a bellweather. When something happens there, a few years later, other states try similar laws. This is not the last we've heard of this behavior. So long as you continue to vote idiots into public office, you will continue to see Bizarro World taking over America.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:03 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


So… uh… Zach… Have you actually followed the money? Because so far, the major folks I see behind it are the Councilwoman, some neighborhood groups (which also opposed another one of the Councilwoman's projects, to bring a Tesco's non-union supermarket to the area), and some researchers from Johns Hopkins.

I mean, chanting "Follow the money" may sound good, but you might as well be yelling "Cherchez la femme!" if you haven't actually followed said money.
posted by klangklangston at 5:20 PM on July 31, 2008


How about you all go back to eating your plates of beans and let the rest of us eat whatever the hell we want?
posted by jonmc at 5:30 PM on July 31, 2008


If it hasn't been said in the 10,000 words above, I wish they would just ban crap food in the school system. From pre-school through high school. No candy, french fries, soda, crappy unhealthy school lunch programs owned and controlled by some corporate crapfood conglomerate of crap-pushers. Start there, in my opinion, and then move to ripping down the golden arches and bells.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 5:32 PM on July 31, 2008


If it hasn't been said in the 10,000 words above, I wish they would just ban crap food in the school system.

Because, that'll stop a kid from sneaking out to McDonald's at lunch. We know it's bad for us. We simply don't care. Now go peddle your papers.
posted by jonmc at 5:34 PM on July 31, 2008


If you're backing up your argument with existing zoning laws, particularly those regarding chemical plants, I'm not buying it. Of course no one wants to breathe in smoke stack exhaust everyday from the factory in your backyard. You don't want it and you would never go to the plant and order up a smog sandwich. That would bring you no pleasure and you wouldn't enjoy it in the least. You have no choice - you have to eat it.

However, even though you realize tons of burgers aren't very good for you, man, those things are tasty...and you WANT one. It is your choice to eat it.

The difference here is that one is a force fed unhealthy inhalant, by no choice of your own. The other is an unhealthy ingestion, happily eaten on your own accord.
posted by markulus at 5:43 PM on July 31, 2008


Do you really need "background data"...

This is Metafilter, where you need links to studies correlating water with wetness.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:44 PM on July 31, 2008


A lot of you are under a misconception. The idea of American business changed in the last twenty years or so. It used to be about "good business" where both parties gained from the transaction. It's now all about attempting to scam your counterparty so that you can get double-digit profit increases each and every year - for example, by selling them food full of highly engineered, ultra-high calorie crap that appeals to them and hooks them at a pre-conscious level, or selling your least durable items to the poor and stupid.

Seen in this light, this bit of legislation is simply an attempt to redress the balance. Effective? Not so sure.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:46 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered what no alchohol licenses within 3 miles of a greyhound station would look like.

This is a complete tangent, but as someone who lives in the Tenderloin and has always been drawn to the old, dirty parts of cities, I've been saddened to find out how many Greyhound stations have been moving out of the city. Hanging out by the interstate for a five-hour layover is about as much fun as a kick in the face.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:59 PM on July 31, 2008


Clarification on comment: My friend's father opened a Juice Bar in Bedford Stuyvesant a few years ago. It wendelled in about 4 months. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. Economics people...

Also, the first, second and third rule of restaurants: location, location, location.

I remember living in the war zone. I was grateful that I could find somewhere to eat for less than $5. Now I can do that with good food I cook myself, but there was a grocery store nearby ... I was just lazy. Even so, the vast majority of people in that neighborhood would not be able to afford healthy food at restaurants, as the "healthy" restaurants tend to be expensive. Doesn't have to be that way, but the franchise model was based on Ray Kroc's vision of efficiency, not health. Subway is an exception, but they still push the unhealthy options, so as to compete on both levels.

But I don't really think this is good governance. Rebuilding a community is a grassroots sort of activity. This is very much on the surface.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:04 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


A lot of you are under a misconception. The idea of American business changed in the last twenty years or so. It used to be about "good business" where both parties gained from the transaction. It's now all about attempting to scam your counterparty so that you can get double-digit profit increases each and every year

This is not new. I currently work for someone who is honest and ethical, but I've also worked for sleazebags. If you live in a small town, it's not so easy for someone to get away with ripping all his neighbors off. It happens, but word spreads quickly. Of course, this has other effects, some of which aren't so great, but in business the honest people who support their community will often be supported in kind. That's the situation I'm in now, and the job itself drives me a bit nuts at times, but I never have to feel slimy at the end of the day.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:20 PM on July 31, 2008


Subsidies could easily convince them to stop raising beef on corn and supplements, in favor of more sustainable and area-appropriate lamb or bison. Those meats may seem "funny" now

You gotta be kidding. Some of the best meat I've had lately was lamb steak, as well as buffalo green chile stew. It was free-range meat, organic and sorta pricey, but I figure that's the real price of eating meat as cultivated in a sustainable manner, so I don't consume a lot of it. But it's so damn good. I can't imagine spending that money on a steady diet of crap meat, like the kind you get in a Big Mac, although I'll admit that used to be a habit. Once you've made a kick-ass, melt-in-your-mouth rare lamb steak, and realize you can have that once in a while, along with staples of good veggies and whole grains, or lousy food all the time, and spend about the same money, it's not a difficult decision. And that's not even taking health into account.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:31 PM on July 31, 2008


KlangKlang, I don't live in California so I don't have enough personal interest to follow the gravy train, but the people pushing for this have some kind of personal interest to keep the status quo in that area. They are not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts because they fear that every time someone gains a pound, angels lose their wings.

Monsters don't just build themselves. They need a Doctor Frankenstein.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:31 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Monsters don't just build themselves.

ZachsMind, I don't share your suspicion. On what basis would you be able to tell a "gravy train" from genuine citizen action using representative democratic government to improve your own community? Because, from my point of view, that's what we're doing all the time, all across the country, and there's really not necessarily a scheming megalomaniac behind every action. For instance, I've got two very progressive friends, one on Planning & Zoning and one on the Communications Tech. Commission, who are, indeed, there for the goodness of their hearts - or at least, because they are willing to get off their tuchas to put their money where their mouths are and invest some time in making the system move in a direction they'd rather support. Your interpretation of this move suggests that you will never, ever be able to view any action of any government, be it local, state, or federal, as motivated by a genuine desire to influence the direction of policy and thus citizens' quality of life.

I might not think this move is very effective, but I know enough about zoning to tell you that if you were to "follow the money" on this one, you'd be following it right out of town, because they're pissing off the companies who are normally the best palm-greasers out there.
posted by Miko at 6:46 PM on July 31, 2008


You gotta be kidding. Some of the best meat I've had lately was lamb steak, as well as buffalo green chile stew. It was free-range meat, organic and sorta pricey, but I figure that's the real price of eating meat as cultivated in a sustainable manner, so I don't consume a lot of it.

I meant that it might seem funny to the "average" shopper; it doesn't seem weird to me, but as you mentioned, eating sustainable meat is a choice, and it's not one that most people have made (yet).

Lamb is a traditional food around here, so it's not really unusual to see people buying it -- the problem is that most of the lamb at the supermarket comes all the way from New Zealand, rather than our own backyard!
posted by vorfeed at 6:50 PM on July 31, 2008


shmegegge writes "even though it makes a nice simple picture in our minds to think so, there is no actual evidence to say that poor people wouldn't use a bank if it opened in their neighborhood. it's just easy to think that that's why the banks don't open there."

I can't speak to that directly but there are places in Calgary where cheque cashing outlets are right across the street from banks.

@jsavimbi: MetaFilter hates the @.
"Where's the rule book?"


Here
posted by Mitheral at 7:03 PM on July 31, 2008


In the year I spent working as a family caseworker in homeless services I kind of got very familiar with how poor families eat. There's a feast and famine element where the family tends to live good right after the food stamps come in (not necessarily the first of the month in Philly, we have this crazy staggered system where different people get stamps at different times based on the last digit of their welfare case); when the Access card gets replenished mom will go grab her meats and more premium items, for instance name brand breakfast cereal is real big at the start of the month.

As the month goes on things tend to get thinner and thinner and the focus of individual meals shifts from chicken and beef to cheese and bread. Sometimes there was a gap at the end of the month where the poorest families came up short. So mom calls all freaking out and I ask my supervisor for a couple dollars for a supermarket card so we can get them through the end of the month. Some families were better about hooking into the local churches and food banks but as you've probably seen on the news food banks are looking pretty meager right now and generally aren't good for much more than some canned vegetables.

One problem is the really deep social isolation of the families in the poorest urban neighborhoods. They know there's better food elsewhere, they just can't get to it.
I had a number of clients who were more discerning buyers and would jump at any opportunity to shop elsewhere, if we could provide them with transportation. They take food stamps at Philly's Italian Market, where some of the best meats go for reasonable prices because they come from actual butchers. The Italian Market is a HUGE shopping destination for poor blacks in Philly, it's not that they don't know about it, it's just that most of them can't feasibly get there and back hauling a months worth of food. I had one client who used to do just that, stuffing a military sized rucksack full of meat and produce that she hoofed home to the Badlands on two different bus lines.

So an even larger problem is that not only are the chain restaurants available to poor people really low quality but their supermarkets are god awful, too. If you're in the Philly region and you've ever been to a Save-A-Lot you know what I'm talking about. When you walk into a Save-A-Lot the first thing you notice is the smell of spoiling food, and much of the meat and produce is well on its way to being spoiled by the time it arrives there. Food there is incredibly cheap, but really, the store itself is little more than a warehouse full of high fructose corn syrup wrapped up in different kinds of packaging.

This idea that there's no options for eating out in these neighborhoods besides fast food is incorrect. There are tons of mom and pop joints; Puerto Rican, African, West Indian, seafood, Halal joints, shit, some of my favorite restaurants in the whole city are in neighborhoods most people would never go to. Sometimes my clients ate at those places, more often they ate at the corner Chinese take out joint or Mickey Dees. It's convenient, it's easy and it's familiar. But it's not the only option, not by far.

And while some very specific neighborhoods in Philly like West Kensington and Fairhill (the Badlands) could be said to be overwhelmingly fueled economically by the drug trade, this is an extremely tiny swath of a poverty ridden landscape that sprawls for miles in every direction. There are other hot spots scattered around, similar swaths of West and Southwest Philly that are established drug zones; basically you can see where all these places are if you look at the clustering of red dots on a homicide map. But the clusters are pretty tight, even though the drug trade did spread out over the last couple years in response to intensive law enforcement efforts targeting the hot zones. The vast majority of urban poor people are just plain old poor. They're not drug king pins, they're not even small time caseworkers (that's what they call corner boys in Philly). I understand that the personal narrative of a single mother trying to raise kids on $8 an hour is a lot less sexy than the Baltimore corner boys of the Wire, but that's the far more common narrative.

I actually thought that was the boldest part of Venkatesh's Off the Books, examining the relatively unsexy yet far more prevalent gray market, as opposed to black market. White people's attention tends to wain real quick when it's not all big rims and coke bricks and gun play, I'm surprised the book is as widely read as it has been.
posted by The Straightener at 7:32 PM on July 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


The neighborhood I grew up in was so bad there were no fast food places for miles. I don't recall eating at McD, or BK, or even having pizza delivered until I was 11 and we moved to a slightly less war-torn neighborhood. So, yeah, Mom cooked every day, but that was no guarantee of health, being of southern heritage. However... fried chicken, pork chops, cornbread, potatoes and gravy, and fried cherry turnovers sure taste great!

hungry
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:51 PM on July 31, 2008


i think this 'moratorium', which will be law and may be extended beyond 1 year (maybe permanent) is both ridiculous and racist. all of OUR choices are being taken away from us by rule of law.
posted by brandz at 7:59 PM on July 31, 2008


Another possible angle. Find out who owns the property in the area. What benefits would there be in making the area less uncomfortable for residents currently renting in the areas surrounding the commercial zone? People certainly won't line up to live near an area where expansion is being curtailed and new revenue from outside corporate interests is DECLINING. They're purposefully making this area LESS appealing to live in, not more. So who would benefit financially from that?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:01 PM on July 31, 2008


I've been saddened to find out how many Greyhound stations have been moving out of the city. Hanging out by the interstate for a five-hour layover is about as much fun as a kick in the face.

and twice the fun of the actual ride.
posted by quonsar at 8:13 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


All of you people who are convinced that money can be made selling healthy food, banking, etc. to poor people should consider actually doing it, instead of just talking. If I knew a way to make money that nobody else seemed interested in, I'd be pretty tempted! You can donate your profits to charity, if making money offends you morally.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:14 PM on July 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


People certainly won't line up to live near an area where expansion is being curtailed and new revenue from outside corporate interests is DECLINING.

Really? Here in my New England city, we're fighting off hordes of people who are terribly eager to settle here for exactly that reason. Tight zoning = improved quality of life!
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on July 31, 2008


What benefits would there be in making the area less uncomfortable for residents currently renting in the areas surrounding the commercial zone?

None. Residents mean squat when there's property value involved. Unless they're landlords.

Touche, Mitheral, tou fugging che. Never bothered to know that existed, but now that I've been labeled a phpBB refugee...

It's easy to take a stand on this based on racial lines, as easy it is on every other matter where a certain people feel like they're underwriting the subsistence of another and thus have the say-so on how that community is supposed to live, but for arguments sake, let's remove urban blacks, because they're not the only poor people in America, much less the only un-wealthy. Popularly poor, but not populous.

I think it's economic opportunism couched in the terms of subtle eugenics. Call it what you will, but when the land underneath my bbq pit becomes attractive, the pig roast will become equally unhealthy.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:23 PM on July 31, 2008


Over 200 comments & not a single "First they came for McDonalds..."

Is this a new MetaFilter record?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:25 PM on July 31, 2008


"i think this 'moratorium', which will be law and may be extended beyond 1 year (maybe permanent) is both ridiculous and racist. all of OUR choices are being taken away from us by rule of law."

The fuck are you even on about, "all of OUR choices."

"People certainly won't line up to live near an area where expansion is being curtailed and new revenue from outside corporate interests is DECLINING. They're purposefully making this area LESS appealing to live in, not more. So who would benefit financially from that?"

"I don't know, honey, where do you want to move?"
"Well, I was thinking about South Central, but I hear there aren't going to be any more fast food restaurants allowed there for a year!"
"Hmm… Well, the rents were reasonable, and the movies I've seen have certainly had nothing but good to say about the schools, but really, we have to think of our children. I guess it's Silverlake for us."

"All of you people who are convinced that money can be made selling healthy food, banking, etc. to poor people should consider actually doing it, instead of just talking. If I knew a way to make money that nobody else seemed interested in, I'd be pretty tempted! You can donate your profits to charity, if making money offends you morally."

Sure thing, Steve. You're gonna stake me the capital, right?

And let me get this straight—You're not saying that money can't be made from selling banking or healthy food to poor people because of something about the poor people, right? I mean, something intrinsic, not just situational, right? Because, especially with the straw-man insinuation that anyone who'd argue that there are better options for poor neighborhoods or that businesses do often have a conflict of interest with the populations that they serve is some sort of commie, well, you sound like an asshole. And I know that you wouldn't want to get people all riled up by seeming to be an asshole when you really meant something innocent, right?
posted by klangklangston at 8:45 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sure thing, Steve. You're gonna stake me the capital, right?

I dunno. Let's see a business plan.

And let me get this straight—You're not saying that money can't be made from selling banking or healthy food to poor people

Right. I'm not saying that.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:46 PM on July 31, 2008


Well, if it can, and it generally isn't, do you see that as a problem? Can we move from descriptive to some sort of normative statement?
posted by klangklangston at 8:48 PM on July 31, 2008


"I dunno. Let's see a business plan."

Y'know, since about the best thing I'd be able to sell poor people in the neighborhoods of South Central is a magazine, I'm gonna say that if you're serious, I am positive that I can find you some investment opportunities instead. (Or: Let's dispense with the idea that you have to do something in order to critique it.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 PM on July 31, 2008


This seems as good a place as any to mention that Starbucks are closing 61 out of their 84 stores in Australia.

I have no idea why they thought they could sell their imitation coffee-like swill in a country with a well-established cafe culture.

"It is difficult to come into Australia, which has a mature coffee drinking population, and where there is a preference [for] sitting down and relaxing with a full cup of coffee instead of a paper takeaway cup," Mr Wakefield said.

Others in the industry suggested Starbucks was struggling with overpriced coffees that failed to meet the standard in Australia's $3 billion coffee market.

Jordan Stamos, co-owner of the Three Monkeys coffee shop in Brisbane's West End, said Australia boasted the last two World Barista champions and was increasingly well-educated about espresso.


/derail
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:51 PM on July 31, 2008


Well, if it can, and it generally isn't, do you see that as a problem? Can we move from descriptive to some sort of normative statement?

I don't know if it can. A lot of people in this thread seem to be convinced that it can, though, so I suggested they do something about it. It's not often that people are able both to make money and do something they care about, so they should jump on that opportunity.

How's that for a normative statement?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:52 PM on July 31, 2008


All of you people who are convinced that money can be made selling healthy food, banking, etc. to poor people should consider actually doing it, instead of just talking.

welcome to the world of the annointed, steve, where lots of people who never ran a business in their lives feel qualified to tell others how to run their businesses

i'm glad that the people of los angeles feel that their business climate is so good that they can afford to tell businesses that they need not open in their town if they're fast food - or the guy selling tacos on the corner, or the guy selling ribs and chicken in the parking lot, all of whom will not be able to start new locations under this ordinance

(the funny thing is that all mickey d's has to do to comply with this ordinance is provide a couple of chairs that waiting customers can sit in, if they wish, while waiting for their food)

me, if i was going to open any kind of restaurant in the l a area, i'd think twice before opening one within the city limits, with this kind of regulation going on - yeah, yeah, communities have the "right" to regulate businesses but businesses have the right to say to hell with your community and locate somewhere else

this sounds like a recipe for more urban blight - and longer commute times for poor people to get to entry level jobs - all in the name of self-righteous food lifestyle liberal puritanism - all based on the ridiculous premise that poor people are spending all their food budget eating at fast food places and not eating crap at home

do any of the people supporting this ordinance have proof that the increase in obesity is due to fast food restaurant chains and not other causes, including cultural traditions? - where are the figures?

it's paternalism, alright, and an especially pernicious form of it - that of a father who's more than willing to cut a child-support check every month but can't even be bothered to actually see his kid

----

Sure thing, Steve. You're gonna stake me the capital, right?

why, no, klang, the bank is - that is, if you have a business plan that convinces them that you know something about the business you want to start
posted by pyramid termite at 9:08 PM on July 31, 2008


I would take a trip to the west coast merely to patronize the Klangklangston-SteveDrElvis Restaurant. I am serious. Do this, and I will visit.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:13 PM on July 31, 2008


I would take a trip to the west coast merely to patronize the Klangklangston-SteveDrElvis Restaurant.

sorry, but in l a, it's the city council's job to patronize the restaurants and their customers
posted by pyramid termite at 9:15 PM on July 31, 2008


"I don't know if it can."

You're not saying it can't, but you don't know if it can? It doesn't sound like you have a whole lot to offer here. I mean, a simple answer to "Can money be made selling [x] to poor neighborhoods?" where x equals some middle-class service with a perceived social good, could be "Yes, but not as much money as [y]" where y equals something that ultimately is counter the long-term interests of the neighborhood.

That, when played out with, say, one of those artificial cell growth games, would predict a steady evolution toward a predominance of short-term (since that's what x really is) choices, unless the rules or system under which choices are made is altered. (I'm basing this on the well-known demonstration that predicts near total segregation if each "cell" simply wants one out of eight neighbors to be the same color).

"A lot of people in this thread seem to be convinced that it can, though, so I suggested they do something about it. It's not often that people are able both to make money and do something they care about, so they should jump on that opportunity."

Again, Steve, I can't help but see this as facetious. There's always a lot of money to be made as an attractive white boxer, but that doesn't obligate me to strap on gloves, or even look for opportunities to back boxers. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only way that argument would seem to point to any hypocrisy (and if that's not your charge, I must really be missing your thrust) is if someone had both inclination and current means to follow through on it. I know that you're attempting to make some sort of grand gesture where you expose people for not standing on their principles, but Steve, I haven't heard any competing programs or principles from you—something you seen scrupulous about unless presenting them as a rebuttal, a rhetorical ace up the sleeve.

So, care to answer the questions again?
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is Metafilter, where you need links to studies correlating water with wetness.

And even then, the chorus will arise: "correlation is not causation!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:18 PM on July 31, 2008


"i'm glad that the people of los angeles feel that their business climate is so good that they can afford to tell businesses that they need not open in their town if they're fast food - or the guy selling tacos on the corner, or the guy selling ribs and chicken in the parking lot, all of whom will not be able to start new locations under this ordinance"

I'm glad that your positions are so unassailable that you don't need to incorporate any facts in order to advance them.
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 PM on July 31, 2008


"And even then, the chorus will arise: "correlation is not causation!""

(Wetness does not prove water, and you do have the problem of qualia.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:21 PM on July 31, 2008


here's a feast and famine element where the family tends to live good right after the food stamps come in

It's always distressed me that people who very clearly have no concept of budgeting, no concept of healthy eating, no concept of planning are thrown money by means of the AFDC program, and set free. I see this regularly, the families with carts brimming with national brand everything, umpty-ump convenience foods, the name brand sugary cereal, fish sticks and tater tots, pre-made burger patties, bologna and Kool Aid and Wonder bread and cheese food slices. No fresh produce whatsoever, not even frozen vegetables, or even apples for the kids -- though there are those fruit snack things that are essentially gummi bears. And out comes the Access card.

Limiting fast food access is the tippety tippety tip of the iceberg. It's feel good fluff when, as usual, the things that would really make a difference take much more effort than anyone inside or outside of the communities wants to exert.
posted by Dreama at 9:24 PM on July 31, 2008


Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only way that argument would seem to point to any hypocrisy (and if that's not your charge, I must really be missing your thrust) is if someone had both inclination and current means to follow through on it.

I think you are indeed completely missing what I'm saying. I'm just saying that if people think they can make money doing a good thing (bringing health and wealth to the poor), they should do it.

Not "should" as in "have a moral obligation," but "should" as in "what a great idea, go for it!" Is this controversial?

Your boxer analogy misses the mark because I doubt you feel particularly strongly that boxing is a good thing that people ought to be doing more of, so it's just one of many ways you might make money (and it has a lot of disadvantages).

I mean, a simple answer to "Can money be made selling [x] to poor neighborhoods?" where x equals some middle-class service with a perceived social good, could be "Yes, but not as much money as [y]" where y equals something that ultimately is counter the long-term interests of the neighborhood.

See, that's not usually seen as a simple question with a simple answer. You clearly have a knack for this stuff that most of us lack. I know you're getting a bit testy about me telling you what to do, but you really should consider pursuing this.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:31 PM on July 31, 2008


"why, no, klang, the bank is - that is, if you have a business plan that convinces them that you know something about the business you want to start"

Thanks, pyramid, but had those terrible capital letters not rendered you unable to read the thread (and, as noted prior, the articles), you'd have seen that I already addressed this earlier. You'd have still missed the point, which was arguing against Steve's implied moral imperative to move from descriptive to normative. (Further, like I noted, the kinds of businesses that I could say that I'd be qualified to run aren't ones that would be particularly applicable here. I don't know how to run a check cashing joint either, yet clearly that doesn't mean that no one does.

here's a feast and famine element where the family tends to live good right after the food stamps come in"

I know that I remember that from my days at the co-ops (both food and housing). I always thought that a better way to disperse funds would be weekly, especially since that's the general grocery lifespan for produce. At the housing co-op, we'd have mountains on food distro days, but it would often be stuff that would go bad pretty quickly, like tomatoes or (for some reason—I don't know why we got such a pile of these) baked goods.
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 PM on July 31, 2008


Thanks, pyramid, but had those terrible capital letters not rendered you unable to read the thread (and, as noted prior, the articles), you'd have seen that I already addressed this earlier.

no, i actually do think you need to be know something about business to be able to critique it fairly - and you've yet to demonstrate that knowledge

You'd have still missed the point, which was arguing against Steve's implied moral imperative to move from descriptive to normative.

no, at some point your critique of society or the restaurant business has to involve proof of a viable alternative that will persuade those poor misguided obese people that they should be supporting the kind of business you prefer

the proof being in the pudding, so to speak

and what proof do you have that fast food restaurants in inner city neighborhoods is the chief cause of obesity in them?

I'm glad that your positions are so unassailable that you don't need to incorporate any facts in order to advance them.

my position is that the city council of los angeles is scapegoating and hasn't actually proved their case

where's their proof of their assertions? where's yours?

or is there a new rule on this board that as long as it doesn't involve religion, we're allowed to take things on faith?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:50 PM on July 31, 2008


"See, that's not usually seen as a simple question with a simple answer. You clearly have a knack for this stuff that most of us lack. I know you're getting a bit testy about me telling you what to do, but you really should consider pursuing this."

With several million dollars, I could set up a kick-ass housing co-operative in South Central that would be easy to self-govern, cheap to live in, and relatively low-crime. However, that's also the sort of thing that I'd kind of have to make a 20-year project (at least) and it's just not the sort of thing that I'm interested in on a day-to-day basis.

"Not "should" as in "have a moral obligation," but "should" as in "what a great idea, go for it!" Is this controversial?"

I'm sorry, Steve, but you're going to have to shoulder some of the blame for being misread here, especially with your crack about being offended by profit. If I'm misinterpreting you, you were certainly playing to a pattern of, shall we say, inflammatory ambiguity.

"Your boxer analogy misses the mark because I doubt you feel particularly strongly that boxing is a good thing that people ought to be doing more of, so it's just one of many ways you might make money (and it has a lot of disadvantages)."

Except that there are more ways to support something than just doing it. I enjoy movies. I'm not a filmmaker. I pay to see 'em. Hell, to bring this even closer—I like local restaurants, for a variety of reasons. Even when I'm in unfamiliar neighborhoods, I go out of my way to patronize them. But supporting, say, Vegi-Soul on Jefferson is less important to me than living on a bus route to work.

For many folks here who believe that the poor are being exploited, or that there is a conflict between the long-term goals of the poor and some businesses, like check cashers as the most egregious, they can see this as a problem but one of a whole passel of competing priorities that they try to support in small part.

Otherwise, it has the stink of a false dilemma attached: either start your own business or nothing can be done.
posted by klangklangston at 9:50 PM on July 31, 2008


Otherwise, it has the stink of a false dilemma attached: either start your own business or nothing can be done.

No, no, not at all. It's just a shame that so many small business geniuses with a social conscious aren't interested in starting a small business at all. Oh well.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:57 PM on July 31, 2008


Er, "conscience."
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:57 PM on July 31, 2008


"no, i actually do think you need to be know something about business to be able to critique it fairly - and you've yet to demonstrate that knowledge"

Something about business != Starting your own inner-city bank/grocery store.

But hey, you don't know anything about urban planning or public health literature, so I guess you'll be bowing out now.

"and what proof do you have that fast food restaurants in inner city neighborhoods is the chief cause of obesity in them?"

What proof do you have that I've asserted that?

"where's their proof of their assertions? where's yours?"

What assertions? That fast-food has a high correlation with obesity, and that the correlation is strong? Well, this would be a start. I'm sure you can find some other studies. Try starting with the bibliography. And I know there's more recent research out there, but I can't link to it (keywords: epidemiology obesity fastfood geography).

or is there a new rule on this board that as long as it doesn't involve religion, we're allowed to take things on faith?

Dude, you couldn't even be bothered to deal with shit that was in the linked articles and you're blaming us for your ignorance? C'mon, just be honest and say that you have no idea what the hell you're talking about but that you're agin it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 PM on July 31, 2008


"and what proof do you have that fast food restaurants in inner city neighborhoods is the chief cause of obesity in them?"

What proof do you have that I've asserted that?

what other justification can you offer for this ordinance? it IS the only justification for it - if you don't agree with the premise, then why defend it?

where is the proof?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:05 PM on July 31, 2008


"No, no, not at all. It's just a shame that so many small business geniuses with a social conscious aren't interested in starting a small business at all. Oh well."

Again, Steve, if you don't want to be seen as advancing these things facetiously or fallaciously, you should be more careful with how you phrase things. Otherwise, people could get the idea that you were arguing that those who are socially conscious should be entrepreneurs as their primary responsibility.

You might even risk coming across as a sarcastic asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 PM on July 31, 2008


"what other justification can you offer for this ordinance? it IS the only justification for it - if you don't agree with the premise, then why defend it?"

It's not the only justification for it, though I see that you've found your shift key and we should all rejoice.

As I fucked up before: Start here. It's a paper that points out the strong correlation between fast food restaurant patronage and obesity.

A belief that a) there is a strong relationship between fast food and obesity, and b) that the risks of negative consequences from this ordinance are likely to be outweighed by the possibility of positive outcome (decrease in obesity) is enough to support it.

While I think that this isn't the best way to address a problem of disproportionate obesity in these neighborhoods, I don't think that there are very many substantial risks to giving it a try to see if it works.

Why should I be against it again?
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 PM on July 31, 2008


Again, Steve, if you don't want to be seen as advancing these things facetiously or fallaciously, you should be more careful with how you phrase things.

I would appreciate any more specific criticism. Why did what I say come across as facetious?

The identification of profitable opportunities based on only the barest information is the mark of a business genius, and I really do think it's a shame more of these socially conscious business geniuses aren't in business.

How could more socially conscious business geniuses not be a good thing? I'm boggled by your objection.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:18 PM on July 31, 2008


Oh, Steve, perhaps it's this niggling feeling that you don't actually believe that these people are geniuses, and that perhaps they're not actually identifying profitable business opportunities.

But if you really are being sincere, I'd posit that you have a naive view of what business genius is, as you seem to be confusing investing savvy with entrepreneurship. The skill sets are not the same.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on July 31, 2008


"How could more socially conscious business geniuses not be a good thing? I'm boggled by your objection."

I missed this earlier, Steve, but I don't believe I've objected to more socially-conscious business geniuses. I haven't even objected to anything you've said, I don't think. I've merely tried to clarify, to save you any embarrassment that might come from being misinterpreted. I really would think it a shame were your genius to be maltreated like that.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 PM on July 31, 2008


But now is my scotchy time, so you might take some time to compose your thoughts without me. I would hate to think that my efforts to prevent you from being perceived as an ass were in fact contributing to said perception. See you in the morning!
posted by klangklangston at 10:34 PM on July 31, 2008


It's a paper that points out the strong correlation between fast food restaurant patronage and obesity.

does it point out that this is more likely to happen in poor neighborhoods? or that in poor neighborhoods there might be culinary traditions that are equally if not more responsible? or that telling people they can't open fast food restaurants (or sidewalk rib stands or taco stands) is magically going to make people thinner in those neighborhoods, seeing as there aren't going to be any existing restaurants closed?

Why should I be against it again?

"I think that this isn't the best way to address a problem of disproportionate obesity in these neighborhoods"

if it's not the best way, why would you be for it? this is a bandaid solution to a complex social problem and you've pretty much admitted it - it's half-assed, feel-good, nanny-state posturing and it's not going to do anything to solve the problem - this is more about making city council people and activists feel good about themselves than actually trying to get people to eat healthier

I don't think that there are very many substantial risks to giving it a try to see if it works.

aside from giving the government even more say over what we might want to put into our bodies, just the way drug laws do - and giving businesspeople the idea that maybe they'd be better off locating their businesses elsewhere than the city of l.a. - oh, and making the government look ridiculous when there are as many fat people a year from now as there were before

it's basically a symbolic gesture - a stupid one - if you're fooled by this kind of empty pandering, then i pity you

it's sheer, self-righteous demagoguery
posted by pyramid termite at 10:36 PM on July 31, 2008


With several million dollars, I could set up a kick-ass housing co-operative in South Central that would be easy to self-govern, cheap to live in, and relatively low-crime.

I think they tried that already, although not specifically in South Central. I believe it's called "living in the projects."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:49 PM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's always distressed me that people who very clearly have no concept of budgeting, no concept of healthy eating, no concept of planning are thrown money by means of the AFDC program, and set free. I see this regularly, the families with carts brimming with national brand everything, umpty-ump convenience foods, the name brand sugary cereal, fish sticks and tater tots, pre-made burger patties, bologna and Kool Aid and Wonder bread and cheese food slices. No fresh produce whatsoever, not even frozen vegetables, or even apples for the kids -- though there are those fruit snack things that are essentially gummi bears. And out comes the Access card.

That is discouraging, Dreama, and part of my job was to try to help moms make better decisions about budgeting their money but it's not a poor decision made out of blind stupidity. These are moms; it follows that a lot of these decisions about what the family eats are driven by the demands of their children. Kids don't want broccoli, they want tots with a mountain of ketchup and a big glass of Kool Aid. That's not something particular to poor kids, and I think a lot of middle and upper class mothers struggle to draw the same boundaries where the children aren't entirely driving what goes in the cart when they go shopping with mom. Poor mom pays with an Access card, rich mom pays with a platinum card she gets miles on. I think both are guilty of poor decision making, but I don't think poor people deserve extra scorn for this particular sin. I mean, they got fat kids in the gated communities, too, you know, it's sort of a national epidemic.
posted by The Straightener at 4:11 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Because you're always flat fucking wrong. It's just a discussion, dude.

speaking of being flat fucking wrong, how about the fact that you misrepresented a very minor issue simply to try and rag on the librul authoritarian conspiracy to deprive fat people of their God-given right to gorge themselves on fast food -- and to do so not only you linked to a racist scumbag's op-ed but you also mentioned apartheid in a completely shameful context (what's next, "cheeseburger Shoah"?)

either you took Saletan's bait (again, Saletan is a guy who believes that blacks are genetically dumber than whites, a fundamental tenet of the Ku Klux Klan, by the way) because you're too stupid to read throught the weakness of his non-argument, or you knew his op-ed made no sense but you went ahead because you simply wanted to troll the liberals here (a favorite pastime of yours, and with your President now at an historical low in popularity and with the trillion-dollar tag for the Iraqi war, all you have left is some story about a very minor story on zoning legislation somewhere in California).

just to speak of being flat fucking wrong.

dude.
posted by matteo at 5:13 AM on August 1, 2008


pyramid termite: aside from giving the government even more say over what we might want to put into our bodies,

And what say exactly is that?

The fact of the matter is, city councils make decisions weighing the health and safety needs of the community against free market enterprise all the time when deciding how scarce land resources should be allocated. Funny how there isn't much of a peep when city councils push towards New Urbanism or insist on pedestrian-safe construction plans.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:41 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


The fact of the matter is, city councils make decisions weighing the health and safety needs of the community against free market enterprise all the time when deciding how scarce land resources should be allocated.

as a general rule, they make them on a case by case basis - or a zoning board does - this is the kind of one size fits all general rule that is bad governance - they couldn't even manage to write an ordinance that distinguished between the local bbq joint and mcdonalds

it's incompetent, lazy governance by ideology
posted by pyramid termite at 6:01 AM on August 1, 2008


And the complaints that the fast food industry is being so unfairly persecuted by the city council tipping the scales of the market is especially ludicrous given that it exists on the largesse of a farm subsidy system that reduces its supply costs.

pyramid termite: Did you not RTFA? "Perry said businesses can apply for a 'hardship exemption' if they are intent on opening a fast-food restaurant." Which certainly sounds like there is a mechanism for case-by-case decisions. And no, lazy and incompetent governance by ideology is what you seem to be proposing, which seems to be either letting the non-existent mythical hand of the market drive development (a proposal no less driven by narrow-minded blinkers of ideology), or having arbitrary implicit rules drive the decision-making process.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:23 AM on August 1, 2008


pyramid termite: Did you not RTFA?

yes, i did - but i keep forgetting that people are going to have to resort to this ad hom when they have a weak argument they're trying to bolster

by the way, ever try to get a zoning variance from a city council? how is a franchisee who's got the major amount of money to invest in a new restaurant going to claim "hardship"?

don't people ever THINK about what they read? don't they know bureaucratic double-talk when they hear it?

And no, lazy and incompetent governance by ideology is what you seem to be proposing

i'm proposing that if the city council is actually serious about the problem of obesity in poor neighborhoods that they actually investigate the real causes instead of pretending they've done something about it by having a blanket ban on new fast food development

again, no one has proved that fast food restaurants are the major cause of obesity in poor neighborhoods, and therefore, no one can say this will be truly effective

but obviously, it's an article of faith here that the invisible magic wand of the nanny state can be waved and everyone will become magically thinner

none of you have addressed the real objections to this - none of you can, because you'd have to admit that you're jumping to conclusions and basing your belief in this ordinance on faith

i'm through discussing it or anything else substantive on this site - the lack of critical thinking here isn't my problem and i have better things to do than to debate people who cannot answer rational objections
posted by pyramid termite at 6:55 AM on August 1, 2008


Cool Papa Bell writes "I think they tried that already, although not specifically in South Central. I believe it's called 'living in the projects.'"

The projects were doomed from the start. However they weren't co-operative housing (at least not as I know the term). It is possible to provide low income housing without it turning into a war zone.
posted by Mitheral at 6:57 AM on August 1, 2008


as a general rule, they make them on a case by case basis - or a zoning board does - this is the kind of one size fits all general rule that is bad governance

Wherever did you get this idea? You don't seem to have even a basic understanding of zoning. Zoning boards, or city councils, definitely do not make land-use decisions on a case-by-case basis. They approve permits on a case-by-case basis based on land-use ordinances voted by representatives elected by the general public. And the type of statute this is is a very common one in municipalities. There are doubtless many of them in effect right where you live: ordinances determining how many gas stations can be in a particular zone, how many outlets of a business by a single owner may be in a zone, how much buffer land is required around a zone, whether businesses can operate overnight or on Sunday, whether a local resident is required to be an owner or part owner, whether you can open a hair salon in your garage or a daycare in a commercial district, how high or how large your signage can be, whether businesses with drive-throughs are allowed, how much lighting is allowable, and whether "formula" businesses are even allowed in your town (there are many towns in my region that require independent ownership).

This is what city councils do, and it's the height of naivete to suggest that somehow this is un-American. What happened to the neocon dream of local control? This is what the residents want, as evidenced by their support for the effort and the fact that they elected these representatives and didn't use their leverage to oppose the move.

Those of you that are up in arms that this is some sort of affront to Mercan Freedom, I suggest you get onto your town's website and make note of the dates and times of regular council and PZC meetings. Because I have no doubt that right now, in your very own backyard, people are discussing land-use issues that are impacting personal liberty! Right where you live! Right now - OMG! How can you stand by and let this happen? Isn't that much more important than worrying about what people you don't even know are doing with their rights in another part of the country and arguing about it on the internet? Don't you have a moral obligation to oppose the evil of a local municipality making land-use policy about local land? Do you know what's in your town's master plan? I expect that you'll all immediately embark upon a crash course in the details of your community zoning ordnance and become a local activist standing up for the rights of all businesses and all land uses to be legal in your town, anywhere and everywhere, even if that means a poultry processing facility right in your own backyard. Right?

Because, sincerely, it's a real shame that so many policy geniuses with such an understanding of the intersection of business and politics never do seem to actually serve in local government, or even bother to be informed about how it works.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


pyramid termite: yes, i did - but i keep forgetting that people are going to have to resort to this ad hom when they have a weak argument they're trying to bolster

by the way, ever try to get a zoning variance from a city council? how is a franchisee who's got the major amount of money to invest in a new restaurant going to claim "hardship"?


No, I bring it up because you made a stupid claim that is directly contradicted by the article. It's rather disingenuous to complain about critical thinking when you are not applying any.

And variances? I see at least three in every City Council meeting I attend.

i'm proposing that if the city council is actually serious about the problem of obesity in poor neighborhoods that they actually investigate the real causes instead of pretending they've done something about it by having a blanket ban on new fast food development

again, no one has proved that fast food restaurants are the major cause of obesity in poor neighborhoods, and therefore, no one can say this will be truly effective


Well, actually there is a fair quantity of fairly solid research in epidemiology and economics which does make the case that poor and black neighborhoods are affected by disparities in food-related businesses (see also 1 2 3)

Is it "proof?" No. Proof is exclusively a matter for mathematics. But the evidence that diet is linked to obesity is strong, as is the evidence that low-SES and ethnic minority neighborhoods have fewer dietary choices. The evidence is strong enough that the current research in public health recommends that city planners address this problem.

but obviously, it's an article of faith here that the invisible magic wand of the nanny state can be waved and everyone will become magically thinner

I don't know who is claiming that "everyone will become magically thinner." There is not going to be a silver bullet cure for the obesity epidemic. But, the "nanny state" has been creating a market favorable for the production of junk food through incentives and subsidies for many tears now. Corn got $5 billion a year in 2006. To complain about invisible magic wands when the government has been creating and maintaining a market for HFCS and other high-calorie food additives is short-sighted.

Or to put it another way, the obesity epidemic has ballooned during a period of time when American government at multiple levels tweaked the market to favor the two primary causes of obesity: consumption of high-energy foods, and reduced activity. High-energy foods are favored by extensive government subsidies, aggressive marketing of farm products, and permissive zoning. Reduced activity has been favored by community planning centered around the use of the automobile. To complain about a "nanny state" now is extremely short-sighted.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:05 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wherever did you get this idea? You don't seem to have even a basic understanding of zoning.

exceptions and ordinances for specific neighborhoods are made all the time - you yourself say "They approve permits on a case-by-case basis"

Because, sincerely, it's a real shame that so many policy geniuses with such an understanding of the intersection of business and politics never do seem to actually serve in local government, or even bother to be informed about how it works.

it's even a greater shame that no one on this board has the intellectual honesty to address this statement effectively or admit i have a point

"no one has proved that fast food restaurants are the major cause of obesity in poor neighborhoods, and therefore, no one can say this will be truly effective"

this isn't about "mercan freedom" or the rest of the strawman family - this is about grandstanding politicians passing feel-good ordinances that aren't actually going to change anything - except the business climate

not one of you have bothered to address my main objection to this directly

over and out
posted by pyramid termite at 8:05 AM on August 1, 2008


I'd like to know more about the sorts of restaurants affected by this moratorium. The given criteria are pretty vague:
a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers
Two places I often eat at are Subway Sandwiches and San Francisco Soup Company. It seems both might be prohibited under the moratorium, particularly the soup place. These restaurants may not be the pinnacle of healthy eating, but they're probably not to blame for the obesity epidemic.

These rules seem quite disconnected from the moratorium's stated goals. I find that suspicious. The "more choices" spiel seems suspect as well.

I wonder if the city council only plans to block national burger chains, but doesn't want to come right out and say so. Maybe they plan to grant a lot of waivers for sandwich shops and taquerias. Ban everything, then cherry-pick the winners?
posted by ryanrs at 8:06 AM on August 1, 2008


Well, actually there is a fair quantity of fairly solid research in epidemiology and economics which does make the case that poor and black neighborhoods are affected by disparities in food-related businesses (see also 1 2 3)

the links that work are related to supermarkets, not fast food places - and they make no attempt to explain whether what people cook at home is a greater factor than that is served in local restaurants
posted by pyramid termite at 8:11 AM on August 1, 2008


exceptions and ordinances for specific neighborhoods are made all the time - you yourself say "They approve permits on a case-by-case basis"

Yes - I said it counter your claim that "this is the kind of one size fits all general rule that is bad governance." Zoning boards always use "one size fits all general rules" as the standard by which they decide whether and when to approve variances. That's how the process works. The municipality sets "general rules," and then the zoning board decides, case by case, whether the rule can be waived when someone requests a variance. That's not "bad governance." It IS governance. That's how your town works, though you don't seem to know it.
posted by Miko at 8:16 AM on August 1, 2008


pyramid termite: To me, it sounds like that you are making the exact same argument that was used in defense of cigarette advertising that targeted children and young adults against ordinances intended to regulated said advertising. The argument went, "well you can't prooooOOOoove that advertisement encourages teens to start smoking, or that smoking causes health problems." Meanwhile, those of us who knew better were able to connect the dots between research showing what kinds of advertising were effective with which audiences, and research showing that, yes virginia, smoking does cause a host of health problems.

Here we are in exactly the same boat. We have substantial longitudinal research linking diet to health outcomes, and substantial research showing that people living in low-SES and ethnic minority neighborhoods have to travel further and pay more money for the foods that have been linked to positive health outcomes.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:22 AM on August 1, 2008


specifically addressing fast food

a large scale study in England and Scotland

and here is a study showing that local food environment actually does affect diet
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:33 AM on August 1, 2008


fine, kirk - now what you need to do is to establish that

1) what people eat at fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods is a greater factor than what they eat at home

2) that this ordinance is going to REDUCE the level of obesity in those neighborhoods - remember, existing restaurants are not affected

otherwise, it remains empty grandstanding and paternalism that doesn't actually DO anything

ps - your comparison of food to smoking and people in poor neighborhoods to "children and young adults" is very interesting, if sloppy
posted by pyramid termite at 8:50 AM on August 1, 2008


to do so not only you linked to a racist scumbag's op-ed but you also mentioned apartheid in a completely shameful context

/me waves at the troll
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:10 AM on August 1, 2008


And the moratorium can be justified just in terms of trying to create a balanced neighborhood. 45 percent food service businesses are classified as fast-food in the specific neighborhood, compared to 16 percent in another neighborhood. Isn't the entire purpose of city zoning ordinances to make decisions about how to allocate scarce resources when a given market segment becomes oversaturated?

pyramid termite: At this point, you seem to be having a modern jackass moment, spinning less and less reasonable arguments in an effort to avoid admitting that you could be wrong.

1) what people eat at fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods is a greater factor than what they eat at home

I'm not exactly certain as to why it is necessary to prove that, with a multi-factorial problem such as obesity, that something is a "greater factor" before we can take action. In fact, the nature of multi-factorial problems requires addressing multiple factors simultaneously. And it looks like the council is considering those factors. The moratorium is a first step towards building a better local food environment in that neighborhood.

2) that this ordinance is going to REDUCE the level of obesity in those neighborhoods - remember, existing restaurants are not affected

As with the issue of regulating advertising for tobacco products, you can't establish a priori that a given regulatory action will have a specific outcome. Furthermore, very few regulatory actions would pass this standard, including the granting of most business permits on the grounds that it will "bring jobs into the community."

your comparison of food to smoking and people in poor neighborhoods to "children and young adults" is very interesting, if sloppy

No its not. I can see no practical difference between your insistence on an unreasonable burden of evidence, and the rhetoric used by tobacco apologists to block public health measures. Except for the fact that we know that tobacco apologists were lying through their teeth.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:22 AM on August 1, 2008


At this point, you seem to be having a modern jackass moment

and at this point, you've gone beyond debate to empty insults

I can see no practical difference between your insistence on an unreasonable burden of evidence

that "unreasonable burden of evidence" being whether something actually works or has a chance of working

what a wonderful country we're becoming, where the right and left browbeat us with their sermons, their bloody shirts and quack solutions to complex problems while those who ask for evidence are called jackasses

i'd laugh, but the inevitable consequences are going to be too tragic to be funny

bye
posted by pyramid termite at 9:39 AM on August 1, 2008


In addition, I'd say that a more balanced mix of food service types within a given neighborhood is a good thing that city councils should promote, regardless of whether they achieve a specific public health outcome.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:41 AM on August 1, 2008


The moratorium is a first step towards building a better local food environment in that neighborhood.

why isn't this the responsibility of the people who actually live there?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 AM on August 1, 2008


Some links:

"Food deserts"

Urban supermarkets

Center for Financial Services Innovation

More on the Unbanked/Underbanked (another term that's often used is "Access to Mainstream Financial Services")

This call for papers gives a more of the jargon that's used and the ideas that are kicking around.

Not quite willing to drop $3.5K on this report.
posted by yarrow at 9:49 AM on August 1, 2008


pyramid termite writes "why isn't this the responsibility of the people who actually live there?"

Where do you think city governments come from?
posted by Mitheral at 9:55 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: and at this point, you've gone beyond debate to empty insults

No, its not an empty insult. Its an accurate assessment of the current state of the argument where you have no facts, no reasonable argument, and have been changing the goalposts in order to avoid modifying your position.

that "unreasonable burden of evidence" being whether something actually works or has a chance of working

Well, "whether something actually works" can only be shown by longitudinal evidence after implementation. (And another sign that you are having a modern jackass day, your standard of evidence is "everyone become thinner.") We can't assess that a priori.

"or has a chance of working" well, again we've established that:

obesity ~ diet
diet ~ local food environment
local food environment ~ SES and race

You've already conceded each and every one of these links. At this point, what rational argument do you have against the recommendation (made by the author of just about every study on this issue) that changing the local food environment should be considered as an intervention for preventing obesity?

I've not been delivering a sermon. When you claimed there was no evidence, I produced the evidence. Then you moved the goalposts, and I showed that very few things would ever meet that standard of evidence. So what argument do you have left?

why isn't this the responsibility of the people who actually live there?

Such as the people who voted for the city council and lobbied for the moratorium?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:59 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


"1) what people eat at fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods is a greater factor than what they eat at home"

No, you don't. You only have to establish that there's a significant contributory cause and that the benefits of restricting it are greater than the costs. Radon isn't, population wise, a greater cause of lung cancer than smoking, but many municipalities (and HUD-funded housing) mandate radon detectors.

And, to put more of a policy point on it—the reason why radon detectors are mandated in many low-income housing situations is because otherwise slumlords wouldn't put them in. The point isn't that somehow the government has taken away poor people's choice to get lung cancer from radon, but rather a recognition of the vulnerable position that many poor people are in—a position that, because of fairly established risk-taking profiles, means that poor folks are less likely to have the resources to make radon a top priority.

"2) that this ordinance is going to REDUCE the level of obesity in those neighborhoods - remember, existing restaurants are not affected"

No, what the ordinance should be doing, the way that it's written, is to curtail the trend upwards in obesity. We're dealing with an acceleration curve here—the ordinance doesn't even have to keep the gap between obesity in these neighborhoods from growing, but merely decrease the speed at which it is growing. If you pardon the pun, this is moral calculus.

"ps - your comparison of food to smoking and people in poor neighborhoods to "children and young adults" is very interesting, if sloppy"

Uh, one of the biggest cited motivations for this is child obesity rates.

"I wonder if the city council only plans to block national burger chains, but doesn't want to come right out and say so. Maybe they plan to grant a lot of waivers for sandwich shops and taquerias. Ban everything, then cherry-pick the winners?"

I can offer this perspective from zoning meetings in Ann Arbor: In Ann Arbor, downtown real estate prices are rising so much that many local merchants, especially long-time tenants, are being priced out of the market. In their place, there are an increasing number of chains, due in part to one important distinction that chains have: they can afford to lose money on a location until they are established. (Recently bankrupt Steve and Barry's is a good example of this—they bought their location and sold clothing at a loss, expecting to be able to sell their location at a profit. Unfortunately for them, they did this in too many places across the country, and got sucked under in the sub-prime crisis). So, the planning commission and zoning board have attempted to do whatever they can to subsidize or aid local businesses while attempting to discourage out-of-state businesses (for a variety of reasons, not purely linked to chains—in fact, the bigger problem is out-of-state landlords who don't maintain their rental properties properly). But you can't legally discriminate against businesses from another state (nor another municipality), so there are all sorts of rules that they've set up in order to try to massage the results they want by limiting signage, square footage, perceived traffic flow to parking ratios, etc. (Complicating all of this are other interest groups, and this is all intra-Democrat interests, who are advocating for things like watershed protection and greenspace requirements that, while limiting the entry of "foreign" business interests, also make it much harder for businesses that are local but not high-margin affairs to stay open.)

So, long story short, yes, they probably want to limit as much as possible and then cherry-pick winners. Likely, they'll need some legal basis regarding benefit to the community, broadly interpreted, which could either be a way for businesses that might otherwise have been profitable but not as profitable for land-owners but that support some other, broader good, to get in, or it could be a way for political influence, graft and favoritism to be managed.

"it's even a greater shame that no one on this board has the intellectual honesty to address this statement effectively or admit i have a point"

You have a point. If you wear a hat, no one will notice.

I addressed your "point" earlier, but like a good ideologue, you didn't bother reading before you went nuts again with your response. You can read above for yet another rebuttal.

""I think they tried that already, although not specifically in South Central. I believe it's called 'living in the projects.'""

Well, you'd be wrong. California actually has a surprisingly low number of housing co-operatives, with the majority of them in the Midwest, followed by the Northeast and Northwest. They were actually part of an experimental plan from HUD to set up alternatives to projects, with a focus on self-governance and community involvement. They have their own problems, like that HUD regulations regarding construction and access have changed wildly over the last 35 years, and the fact that even as they were an experimental program, one of the institutional goals of HUD was to have them fail as an alternative to the projects plan. Add to that local variation in housing laws, section 8 requirements, construction patterns and location, and you have a mixed bag. But the housing co-op of which I was a board member, and was deeply involved in governing even when not holding an official position, has had several members serve on the board of the National Association of Housing Co-operatives, and is in many ways a model to others in the way it addressed crime, social programs and now is in the process of redefining how mortgage buy-outs from HUD are handled.

So, no, co-ops aren't projects, and given the experiences of co-ops around the country, poor neighborhoods are much better served by co-ops than projects. Which is why the Boyle Heights neighborhood redevelopment, while not explicitly governed as a co-op (which I think is unfortunate, as the ability to democratically set neighborhood standards and enforce them legally is one of the biggest advantages of a co-op), has taken many cues from the co-op and co-housing movements.

But again, while I could pretty easily write by-laws and establish a management team, it's not really something that can be done without a 25-to-30 year commitment. And, frankly, weighing the costs and benefits of several long-term plans to provide multi-phase renovations is pretty deadly dull (especially if it's not your place that's getting the renovations).

But you were just tossing out tired snark, weren't you?

"if it's not the best way, why would you be for it?"

Because I'm not dumb enough to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
posted by klangklangston at 10:15 AM on August 1, 2008


At this point, what rational argument do you have against the recommendation (made by the author of just about every study on this issue) that changing the local food environment should be considered as an intervention for preventing obesity?

that the ordinance does not in fact change the local food environment? - (remember that no restaurants are being closed) - that it is not established that the possible effect of driving business away from los angeles outweighs the effect that it could have on the obesity of people in poor neighborhoods? - that it is possible that there are cultural reasons for this obesity and the prevalence of fast food restaurants are a symptom, not a cause? - that there are much greater reasons for obesity than fast food restaurants? - that it is not the job of the government to change it but those who actually live there and buy the food, by what they choose to buy, not government edict? - that it IS the job of the government to be able to give people an idea that what they propose actually will work?

When you claimed there was no evidence, I produced the evidence. Then you moved the goalposts

no, you either misunderstood me or chose to - your evidence did not answer my initial objections - and crying that i'm not allowed to further clarify and explain my arguments when you have done so with yours is sheer hypocrisy

all this meta-argumentation stuff is a sheer smoke screen for your inability to answer my objections - or to distract people from the fact that you yourself have admitted that the government does not know this ordinance is going to work

in fact, the evidence suggests that it won't - the fact that not one fast food restaurant will be closed pretty much establishes it won't

it's a feel-good symbolic gesture that doesn't accomplish anything and i'm calling bullshit on it

god forbid that people actually demand their governments DO something effective for them

Because I'm not dumb enough to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

and i'm not dumb enough to shine my shoes with bullshit because i can't get shinola
posted by pyramid termite at 10:32 AM on August 1, 2008


restaurant report card
posted by pyramid termite at 10:56 AM on August 1, 2008


That "report card" is pretty info-free. Did they do anything besides count calories?
posted by ryanrs at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2008


"it's a feel-good symbolic gesture that doesn't accomplish anything and i'm calling bullshit on it"

And that's why you're an ideologue and can be easily dismissed.

There are reasons to believe that this will, as I noted above and you ignored, slow the increase obesity relative to other areas. Since it's a short-term (legislatively speaking) moratorium, data can be collected on both sides of the experiment and a broader policy recommendation can be made. If it doesn't work, then you can call bullshit all you like. But prior to that point, you're not basing your argument on any evidence, just a perceived lack of evidence from the other side.

It's ironic that you were so vociferous in your arguments against those who don't run small businesses offering opinions on them, and yet you, with OBVIOUSLY no ability to read scientific studies or analyze and interpret policy or epidemiology information, are arguing that since you can't be convinced, it's obviously bullshit.

(Which is basically the fallacy from ignorance…)
posted by klangklangston at 2:47 PM on August 1, 2008


pyramid termite: Again, the evidence linked all addresses your objections, and the epidemiologists studying the link between obesity, demographics, and city geography all recommend that city planners should consider this kind of action. On this front, you are rather like the people standing in the way of John Snow closing the water pump, on the grounds that he couldn't prove that the water was tainted. No he couldn't, but he had more than enough evidence to justify closing the pump anyway.

Most of your current objections are fallacious.

Businesses are grandfathered in zoning considerations, so the City Council can't close businesses. But what they can do is pass zoning laws in such a way that new projects that are needed take precedence over new projects that are not. City councils do this all the time, but I don't think we'd be having this debate if the moratorium was on strip-malls or housing projects of four-bedroom luxury condos.

The wailing, "there are other potential causes" is irrelevant. No one has any illusions that encouraging smoke-free businesses will stop all cases of lung disease. But there is enough evidence that encouraging smoke-free businesses will stop enough to make it worthwhile.

The argument that it will drive away business is bullshit because this applies to only one neighborhood that's oversaturated with one type of business. And this is exactly what zoning laws and city planning are meant to do.

Which leads to the other line of bullshit. The city council is composed of citizens of the city, and elected by citizens of the city. The claim that city councils are not empowered to make decisions about community planning, or that citizens can only vote with their pocketbooks, is a misunderstanding of basic civics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:34 PM on August 1, 2008


There are reasons to believe that this will, as I noted above and you ignored, slow the increase obesity relative to other areas.

slow the increase of a social problem = fail

i really don't see any need to discuss this further with someone who is more concerned with being "right" then whether the program he supports is actually effective

---

The argument that it will drive away business is bullshit because this applies to only one neighborhood

"The ban covers a 32-square-mile area for one year, with two possible six-month extensions.

The area contains about 500,000 residents, including those who live in West Adams, Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park."

that's not one neighborhood, that's several - and i really don't see any need to discuss this further with someone who jumps to unwarranted conclusions, exaggerates the evidence and in this case, outright lies about it - not only did i RFTA, i actually understood it, which is more than you can say, isn't it? you've been playing similar games with the rest of your statements - just as i don't have time to discipline someone else's spoiled brat, i don't have time to discipline your poor thinking and misstatements of facts
posted by pyramid termite at 6:13 AM on August 2, 2008


"slow the increase of a social problem = fail"

Well, you think it's a fail, because you're retarded. Again, that's called letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Look to plug-in hybrids as an example—they don't stop global warming, because they still rely on energy from power plants (often coal). But per mile, the ones designed by Tesla Motors to be entirely battery-powered decrease greenhouse gas by 40% over gasoline cars. This doesn't solve the problem, but it gives us a way to mitigate its expansion.

Like I mentioned before, it's calculus, in that what can be expected here isn't necessarily a decrease in obesity, but a slow to the acceleration (of which the raw rise in obesity would be the derivative). Because it's a square, it's easier to affect, and thus minor interventions like this can have larger results on that curve.

So what would be a failure for this legislation, you know, to people who actually understand what they're talking about? If the obesity curve for these neighborhoods accelerated at the same rate or more. From there, victory is graduated: a minor decrease in the acceleration is probably what will happen, which would encourage the extension of this moratorium, but a large decrease in the acceleration curve would be nice; a decrease in the obesity discrepancy between these neighborhoods and bordering ones would be fantastic but is unlikely.

Really, this proposal is as modest as it gets without eating Irish babies. No doubt the epidemiologists of Johns Hopkins (whose research and policy recommendations helped shape this initiative, along with neighborhood activists) would have hoped for a program that went further, but as LA is in a budget crisis, traditional Democratic buttresses like subsidies for the type of businesses that are desired isn't really feasible.

But yeah, I think I'm going to give this up now, since it's teaching French to a pig—Wastes my time and annoys the pig.

And besides, I'd wager that anyone reading isn't going to be persuaded by your moronic posture of disciplining anyone else's thinking. Especially Kirk's, who, y'know, actually science-and-systems literate.
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 AM on August 2, 2008


I think we're long overdue for a reemergence of personal gardens. Why go to the store all the time? Grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs. You'll be healthier and spend less at the supermarket.
posted by deusdiabolus at 8:29 AM on August 4, 2008


While I'm a big fan of gardens the amount of work involved growing your own vegetables and fruit is greater than going to the super market.

'Course you do get to learn about exciting lifeforms like wireworms when they start eating your potatoes.
posted by Mitheral at 10:48 AM on August 4, 2008


Growing your own veggies is difficult when you are are too poor to own a yard, like me. Communal gardening areas require a benevolent presence that allows that sort of thing on land they own. There is a community garden in my town but getting there and back takes a lot of gas and I don't have the time after working my two jobs.

And that brings up a valid point someone else mentioned earlier. Being an adult on my own who works seven days a week to make ends meet and has responsibilities beyond my 9-5, by the time I get around to feeding myself, it's late. Cooking something and cleaning up after is just another 45 minutes of chores that, lately, I am just not up for and would eliminate a lot of my precious free time. I can't even imagine what it would be like if I had kids. I can understand the draw of instant gratification that is affordable and is designed to be addictively tasty.

One thing that the paternalism argument is missing that it was the council-woman for the district affected that spearheaded this effort, with more than a little help from community activists in her district. klangklangston

From my read of the article it sounded like the decision was made for these neighborhoods by outsiders. A community should be free to run social experiments on itself as much as it wants and I was wrong.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2008


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