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A Clouded Horizon

Don’t think that just because leadership changed in Howard County that the nannystatists who have been in charge there are going to end their assault on personal choice.

Upon taking office earlier this month, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman rightfully rescinded regulations put in place by his predecessor Ken Ulman that eliminated the sale of sugary drinks at Howard County parks and facilities. It was a blow against the extreme leftists who wish to govern what food and drink middle and working class Marylanders can choose from.

Just because there’s new leadership in Howard County doesn’t mean these anti-liberty, anti-choice statists are giving up on their fight to limit your ability to choose food. In a Baltimore Sun op-ed this morning, Nikki Highsmith Vernick, CEO of an outfit called the Horizon Foundation, called for new nutritional standards anyway.

Ms. Vernick’s piece starts with this basic question:

Lost in the noise of the debate over Howard County Government’s nutritional standards regarding sugary drinks are a few key questions. First, when, if at all, should government act in response to growing evidence linking certain behaviors to premature mortality and increased health care costs? And second, if providing only healthy options on government property goes “too far,” are there interim measures beyond just education that can help address growing public health threats?

To anybody of rational mind and a basic understanding of personal liberty and responsible government, the answer to both of those questions is “no.” But that doesn’t stop Vernick from making recommendations that County Executive Kittleman “to explore policies that complement educational programs — policies that wouldn’t conflict with his convictions but would have far more efficacy than education alone.”

So what are some of her half-cocked recommendations?

•Limit unhealthy beverages to 10 percent of offerings.

•Price unhealthy beverages significantly higher than healthier options.

•Place unhealthy beverages and snacks at the bottom of vending machines — out of the line of sight.

•Require signage and vending machine markers that indicate which choices are healthier choices.

All of those regulations, of course, impact not the liberty of people to make choices as much as it does institute anti-competitive regulations on private businesses who wish to sell goods in Howard County public facilities. It also would artificially inflate places for lower-income Howard County residents who may already have difficulties in purchasing food for their families.

So who is the Horizon Foundation? Their website says “The Horizon Foundation is an independent philanthropy dedicated to improving the health and wellness of people living or working in Howard County, Maryland. Their mission statement also includes a lot of other liberal buzzwords about healthy choices and wellness and such.

Unsurprisingly, the Horizon Foundation staff includes and entire host of do-gooders with ties to Maryland Democrats:

  • Ms. Venick, the CEO, was a Senior Medicaid Analyst at the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton White House, was a staffer for a Democratic Congressman, and was appointed by Martin O’Malley to the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council
  • Director of Communications Ian Kennedy served as a Deputy Chief of Staff to the aforementioned Ken Ulman
  • Chief Program Officer Glenn Schneider is a former Director of Health Policy and Planning for the Howard County Health Department in the Ulman Administration, was an appointee of Martin O’Malley to the Maryland Health Care Commission, and is the former Executive Director of the notorious Maryland Health Care for All coalition. He seems to take pride on his role in raises taxes on cigarettes.

Horizon’s ties to the Democratic Establishment goes beyond staff. The Horizon grants database notes $215,000 in grants to Healthy Howard, a non-profit championed by Ken Ulman, as well as $84,500 in grants to the Evergreen Health Cooperative. Evergreen is headed by Dr. Peter Beilenson, who served as Baltimore City Health Commission under Martin O’Malley, as Howard County Health Officer under Ulman, and ran as a Democrat for Congress in 2006.

Just about the one thing you can’t find on the Horizon Foundation website is where there money comes from, an important issue when you consider the fact that ideological soleman (and former Schneider employer) Vinny DeMarco is on the take from the very industries that he claims to want to outlaw.

Vernick’s Sun op-ed this morning was little more than an advertisement from the persistent nannystate establishment that is working to take control of every aspect of your life. Horizon and their ideological soulmates like DeMarco have already come for tobacco. They’ve been coming for your sugary drinks. They’ll come for alcohol next. And after that they’ll come for the rest of your food. These are the kind of folks who won’t be happy until the only thing you’re allowed to eat is some “punishingly boring, joylessnot at all pleasurable nonsense like Soylent.

They key takeaway from Ms. Vernick’s piece this morning was not that Howard County (or other jurisdictions) should do more to protect the masses from making bad choices. The takeaway is that just because adults are now running Howard County and will soon be in charge of our state doesn’t mean that politically connected Maryland Democrats who think they know better than you aren’t still aiming to take away your liberty and your personal liberty.






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