Traditionally this country was known as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Traditionally, perhaps.

Currently, not so much.

What makes it worse, is we let it happen and even encourage it.

Consider smoking and plastic bags.

Last week, a new ordinance in San Rafael, in Marin County of California, got national headlines as the strictest, no-smoking law in the country.

It bans smoking in any multi-family residence with three or more units and applies to owners and renters of condos, co-ops and apartments.

Proponents say smoke goes through walls, cracks and heating systems, causing health problems. They cite studies, which ostensibly show the health hazards of second-hand smoke despite the fact that comparable studies show there’s nothing of the sort.

“Land of the free”? Not when there are specious laws preventing people from smoking in the privacy of their own homes.

“Home of the brave”? Not when we allow this kind of travesty to take place.

The anti-plastic-bag Nazis are on the loose in Marin County as well. In October, the state Supreme Court ruled that the county can enforce checkout-counter restrictions in unincorporated areas.

Plastic bags are prohibited, and if the customer wants a paper bag, there’s a 5-cent fee.  The plastic bag manufacturers challenged the ban, saying paper caused more environmental problems, but lost.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled 3-0 that since the ban will protect the environment, no review of possible negative effects was required.


Here’s another one: Plastic bag manufacturers claimed that a fee for paper bags is a tax and requires voter approval.

The courts said no; it’s a fee. (Sounds like Obamacare!)

Double huh?

We don’t directly pay for paper or plastic now. We buy merchandise and the store gives us a means to carry it home. The cost of the bags, paper or plastic, is built in to the price of the merchandise.

Now, we are “encouraged” – read that forced – to bring our own reusable bags to the store; it is against the law for the store to use plastic bags; and if we want a paper bag, we must pay for it.

It starts at 5-cents and in most jurisdictions, increases to as much as 50-cents a bag. And that money goes to the store, not to the town or county requiring this nonsense.

It’s spreading like a fungus across the state with more than 50 counties and cities already having adopted such laws, but it’s national as well.

Across the bay, in Contra Costa County, the town of Lafayette already has anti-smoking ordinances but recently expanded them to protect public health and children – of course.

The smoking ban now includes outdoor public areas, dining areas and events. In addition, new multi-family residences and existing ones as they are newly leased or rented are affected and smoking is banned within 25 feet of building entries and windows.

Council members defend the law saying smoking is only banned in areas where it affects other people. They regard the law as a reasonable compromise that respects the rights of all citizens.

Land of the free and home of the brave – hah. So much for personal and property rights.

But wait. Consider this: Eight miles away in the city of Walnut Creek, there’s a brave man and he has lots of supporters.

Councilman Justin Wedel, in his first term in office, has taken a stand against these anti-smoking anti-plastic bag ordinances.

I had him as a guest on my KSFO radio program, and he told me he’s opposed to the ordinances because they go beyond the smoke and the plastic. He said it’s a basic issue of constitutionally protected property rights.

He said his oath of office was to protect the Constitution and he intends to do just that.

Wedel is clearly swimming against the tide of the city council, but that doesn’t stop him.

The city has an anti-smoke ordinance, which passed in October by a 4-1 vote. (Guess who cast the one “no” vote.)

Anti-plastic bag regulations, are under discussion right now.

So Councilman Wedel got busy. He is working to have two initiatives on the ballot to allow citizens to decide for themselves if they want such restrictions.

He organized a group called Speak Up for Walnut Creek to provide information about the issues and to provide petitions to collect the signatures needed to get the two measures on the November 2014 ballot. He has 180 days to do that and is aiming for 4,200 signatures for each initiative to give a cushion of safety.

Wedel told me that his position is not based on his personal opinion about smoking or the use of plastic bags but is an issue of the slippery slope of intrusive legislation.

He wants people to have the free choice of making informed decisions and not be forced by a government with other intentions.

As he says on his website, “I swore an oath to protect the rights of the people,” and he doesn’t see it the right of government to get involved in such property rights issues.

There’s no doubt not everyone agrees with him. Wedel told me some have said he “marches to a different drummer” and then, he said, there “are those who call me every name in the book.”

Not surprising, but it’s refreshing to know there are people in government who remember this is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Councilman Justin Wedel is both free and brave. Walnut Creek, Calif., is fortunate to have him.

We should all be so lucky.

Follow Barbara Simpson on Facebook.


Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.