This week, the New York Dept. of Health announced a new measure, sponsored by Mayor Bloomberg, to ban the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks, 17 ounces or larger. The ban would apply to restaurants and any other establishments that receive health inspections for food service.
Mayor Bloomberg explained that the measure is a direct attack on obesity and its related health issues. Multiple studies released over the last several years indicate that obesity is now the most costly and serious health issue in America, having overtaken other health problems such as smoking and cancer.
Soda consumption is at the forefront of the obesity issue, and I was surprised to learn that a 17-ounce soda contains approximately 27 cubes of sugar and a 51-ounce soda contains approximately 87 cubes. Mayor Bloomberg argues that by limiting the size of sodas and other sugary drinks, consumers will consume less. Additionally, Mayor Bloomberg cites studies that show consumers are less likely to buy two sodas at a time, even if they want more than a 16-ounce drink.
In all honesty, I am very conflicted over this issue. On one hand, I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for taking a proactive stance on a serious and growing national epidemic. But, on the other hand, the idea of the government limiting the amount and type of beverage that comes with a value meal sends shivers down my spine.
I advocate for self accountability and responsibility. I believe everyone must sleep in the bed that they make. But, the deciding factor that I see with this issue is its affect on kids. The ban does not restrict sales in grocery or convenience stores. So, parents are free to buy and keep their houses stocked with whatever they choose. Also, anyone can go into a corner store and buy any kind of soda or drink that they want. Therefore, the major impact of this ban on fast food restaurants, where many kids order and purchase food on their own.
Because the practical effect of the ban is to limit the negative repercussions of fast food and take-out, and it doesn’t really do more than that, I support the measure. Although it’s always a slippery slope when creating new regulations and limits imposed by the government, on balance, I think Mayor Bloomberg’s measure does more good than harm and I hope it ultimately gets passed.
In light of recent events, this week I decided to write about police reports. For those who do not know me personally, yesterday my car was broken into and the stereo was stolen. To add insult to injury, it was broad daylight, it was parked in front of my house, I was home at the time, and the front door to the house was wide open.
Nonetheless, in dealing with the situation I learned about a valuable and convenient tool offered by the Denver Police Department: Report a Crime Online
I think there are two main reasons why people don’t make police reports when something bad happens. Firstly, it can be a burden to call the police, wait for a patrol car to arrive, and then fill out the paperwork in an interview-like manner. Commonly, this is all done sitting in the hot sun or in a freezing blizzard, while waiting in the parking lot of a closed down Blockbuster or Jack-in-the-Box. Secondly, I think many people underestimate how important a police report is, especially if you later need to make an insurance claim or pursue legal action.
Yesterday, in looking for the Denver Police Department’s non-emergency phone number, I came across the Report a Crime Online program. Generally speaking, instead of calling a police unit to respond in person, you can now go online and fill out a loss or accident report on your own. You submit the report and receive a temporary case number, and, after the report is reviewed and approved, it is officially filed and a formal case number is assigned. Everything is emailed to you almost instantly.
This is a brilliant system. It allows you the time and ability to make the report at your convenience, once you have the knowledge and wherewithal to know the extent of your damages or loss. Additionally, it does not require a police officer, who likely has other duties to perform (and would prefer to be doing those other duties) to make a personal visit to witness a broken car window.
As far as the importance of filing a report, the system makes it so easy to file a report that there is no good reason not to do it. I have spoken to many people who didn’t think they need a police report, because “the damage didn’t look that bad.” But, a few weeks down the line, the quote comes back from the body shop and an insurance claim is the only way to afford the repairs. Without a police report, it makes it much more difficult to make an insurance claim (and there may be additional fees too), and a police report can prove to be invaluable in any legal action.
I am not suggesting that if you get involved in a traffic accident, you should necessarily exchange info, proceed home, and file the report online (even though it is possible). There are still many situations where calling the police and having a patrol car arrive on-scene is the best, if not only, way to proceed and protect your interests. But, in light of the increasing and ever-present instances of petty theft and vandalism, Report a Crime Online is a great and stress-reducing system that takes a little bit of the sting out of the process.
In November, I wrote an article about the City of Denver’s Office of Economic Development
(OED), and the emphasis that Mayor Hancock is placing on small business development (Bureaucracy Better For Business?
). The article discussed the small business lending programs that the City offers, where traditional financing through banks is unavailable. It just so turns out that M&D’s was a recipient of one of the loans through the OED, and that the City of Denver is foreclosing the loan.
While the Post maintained its journalistic neutrality and reported the case in an honest light, it is hard to read the article and not feel that the City is the bad guy in this case. But, it is important to remember the role that the OED plays in making small business loans. When you read about a foreclosure it is easy to lump the City’s lending program in with the other bad press about banks. However, what is important to remember is that the OED’s lending program gives small businesses the opportunity for financing and another chance, where traditional financing alternatives are not available.
So, while it is sad to see another business close its doors due to hard times, it is also important to keep in mind that the OED’s lending program made it possible for M&D’s to keep serving the community for a little longer that it would have otherwise.
Today, the Denver Post published an article about a local business, M&D’s Cafe, which is closing its doors after 34 years in operation because it is unable to make payments on its loans or pay its taxes. The story is important because the cafe was a major presence in its neighborhood, and it is an example of how the economic downturn continues to affect businesses - even those considered to be landmarks.
Office of Economic Development
(OED) in an effort to re-focus and re-energize the department, emphasizing economic development for small businesses.
More specifically, Mr. Martinez will lead the Small Business and Start-up Advisory Group, which is also a new creation of the Mayor’s that was introduced during his first 100 days in office. The Mayor’s office has explained that the purpose of the group is to make Denver the “Start-Up and Small Business Capital of the country.” To do this, they say that the group will focus on high-growth, innovative start-ups that create new products and services, hopefully resulting in the creation of high-paying jobs.
Previously, Mr. Martinez was a board member of the Regional Transportation District (RTD), where he was partially responsible for budget oversight, and before that he worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City for over 35 years.
Admittedly, I am a skeptic when it comes to the government announcing new groups, committees, or advisory boards, because I don’t necessarily believe that the costs of the projects are usually worth the returns. However, I am quite interested in following Mr. Martinez and the emphasis on small business development that the city has put forth as a new priority.
When I first heard about the city’s new project, the only thing I could think was “oh great, the city’s adding new salaries to the budget that won’t be worth their cost.” But, as I looked further into the issue, my perception changed. As I learned more about Denver’s OED, the skepticism lessened and I am now excited to learn more about the new programs and watch them develop.
Given Mr. Martinez’s background with the Federal Reserve Bank, the natural question I had was “how will Mr. Martinez be able to provide funding and availability to start-up capital to small businesses through the city?” Funding is generally the key to small business development. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Denver currently has two lending programs for new businesses: the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program
, and the Neighborhood Business Revitalization (NBR) loan program
Each program offers lending services for businesses located in designated neighborhoods throughout the city, in an effort to develop local economies where business and financing are lacking. In a time where private lending has slowed (if not dried up altogether) it is fantastic to see the city stepping in and truly providing a public service – financing and capitalization. Given Mr. Martinez’s background in banking, I can only hope that much of his work will be to broaden and expand those programs.
It remains to be seen how effective the Small Business and Start-up Advisory Group will be. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. But, for the first time in a long while I can say that I support the direction the city is going, and I hope to be able to report on future successes of Mr. Martinez and his new program.
This week, Mayor Hancock announced the appointment of Chris Martinez as the Director of Small Business Opportunity for the city of Denver, which is a new position within the city’s bureaucracy. Mr. Martinez will join the city’s