Friday, April 6, 2007

Frieden's Tax Hikes

"THE city's Ministry of Culinary Righteousness struck again yesterday, shutting popular Park Avenue South eatery Les Halles for health-code violations including 'conditions conducive to rodents' -- although there were no actual rodents," The Post's Steve Cuozzo reports.

The question that TV-loving Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden should answer is: Does his face turn red in the privacy of his own mirror?

The city's transparent campaign to cleanse itself of the recent KFC-Taco Bell rat stench is bad business in a town where eateries are already besieged by food police who dictate the oils in which french fries can be cooked.

Two months ago, rats were photographed cavorting through a KFC-Taco Bell the day after an inspector found nothing wrong.

Frieden was stung up the wazoo by public and press outrage. Ever since that embarrassment, his food cops have been closing places at three times the previous rate.

And not for entirely just reasons:

Many violations criteria are useless for safeguarding customers' health - like a missing "no spitting" sign or a jar of olives left on the floor, as happened at Coffee Shop.

The city denies targeting the well-known places, saying each posed "an immediate threat to public" health like others closed.

But as Frieden should know, if it looks like a rat and it smells like a rat - it's a rat.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance's Richard Lipsky adds an important point:
The regulatory jihad is costing local eateries close to $30 million a year, and the decision to force calorie posting will cost an additional $46 million. Very little of the department's activities has any good impact on protecting the health of New Yorkers. It does, however, directly imperil the health of the city's restaurants, a sector that employs hundreds of thousands of our folks. Just another reason why the expansion of government often means trouble for the industrious among us -- and the average citizens who depend on their enterprise.
Herein lies the greatest problem with the city's Health Dept. Policies' actual effects on businesses are never considered. The "menu mandate," which requires many city restaurants to post calorie contents next to menu items in the same type-size, is essentially a tax increase that has a side-effect of altering city menus.

Like the circumcision campaign, there's no scientific data suggesting it will achieve the desired result. Therefore, its one, certifiable impact -- increasing the cost of business -- should be what attracts the greatest attention.

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