SJ is in the middle of a fast food fight

August 20, 2008 5:51:17 PM PDT
The political battle is heating up in San Jose's war against obesity. A city committee will take up a controversial proposal to temporarily ban new fast food restaurants and forever ban them near schools.

San Jose is in the middle of a fast food fight. It is one local lawmaker's effort to fight childhood obesity, by banning new fast food restaurants near schools, but the idea is getting mixed reviews.

When it comes to the so-called burger ban, Nora Campos does have the support of at least two other colleagues on the City Council. But once again, this is a very public battle with the mayor over city policy.

The good and the bad thing for Nora Campos is that she was not at the committee hearing on Wednesday, because she gave birth to her son Jack yesterday.

Prospect High School doesn't start classes until next week, and there's already a stream of students heading to McDonalds across the street. It opened at a new location just three weeks ago.

Sam Herring says it's just too close.

"I think it leads to more people being clinically obese and when you start in high school it doesn't help," said Herring.

That's why councilmember Nora Campos supports a so-called burger ban 1,000 feet from school campuses. Her moratorium proposal would affect new fast food restaurants, but the mayor says this is no time to place any restrictions on businesses.

"This bill is inconsistent with our economic development strategy. It would send a bad message to businesses as to whether or not we want them to come into San Jose," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

The committee hearing to determine if the idea would go to a full council debate was often contentious.

The County Health Officer thinks the city should explore the idea of a fast food moratorium, but his recommendation was cut off by the mayor's one minute rule.

"Can I just give you my recommendation from the Health Department, it's your Health Department too. Your time is up. I'm sorry," said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib.

Eight business owners and pro-business organizations spoke up.

"What this ban would do if it is like the Los Angeles ban, it would stop us in our tracks and we wouldn't be able to put anymore restaurants down here," said Pizza My Heart owner Chuck Hammers.

That viewpoint was outnumbered by 11 people who urged the committee to let the debate advance to the full council.

"This is not about the economics of this city, this is about our children it's about the future," said San Jose City Councilmember Forrest Williams.

In the end, the three committee members voted to pass the debate onto other forums, not the city council. It appears that decision will be challenged.

"Last I checked the city council of 10 and the mayor represents the city of San Jose and not just the rules committee," said Nora Campos staff member Rolando Benilla.

The mayor and the other two council members on this debate moved this debate to a very low-profile venue. The City Schools Collaborative and the Healthy Neighborhoods Venture are going to look to this issue, and it is definitely not a high profile forum that Nora Campos wanted, and will try to resurrect it.


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