Thursday, April 27, 2017

Leave Jazzfest alone.. this time

The infamous Crawfish Monica
How much would you pay to know your overrated pasta is safe?

It's super fun to troll our favorite over-priced magnet for the pretentious "authenticity tourists" currently pouring into the Airbnbs near you.   But I gotta say, this time we're not going about it in the best way.
Even for the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Louisiana food service inspections come cheap.

The state Health Department charges $25 -- in total -- to inspect the dozens of food and drink vendors during the seven-day event. To put that in perspective, there was enough food and drink prepared at the 2016 Jazz Fest to serve the 425,000 people who attended it  -- even with major acts on one Saturday afternoon canceling their performances.

State law sets the $25 maximum. But now Secretary Rebekah Gee wants to raise it.

Rep. Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans, has filed a bill to let the Health Department charge $37.50 -- per vendor -- at Jazz Fest and other events. Jazz Fest has about 80 food booths, so the agency's compensation could rise to about $3,000, under Harris' House Bill 520

Like I said, I'm no fan of doing special favors for Jazzfest. But this is bad. Safety inspections are a service provided by the Health Department which is a public agency operating for the public benefit. It's fine to charge a fee in order to cover some of the costs of providing this service. Such fees should be minimal, though.  And we shouldn't expect them to cover all of the cost. Usage fees like this run contrary to the notion that public agencies should operate for a collective purpose rather than on a pay-to-play basis.

Here is where you really get a sense things are going the wrong direction.
Gee, who works for Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, said bumping up the price of health inspections would help her $12 billion agency operate more like a business -- as Republican legislators have repeatedly suggested.

Um, no. That's not cool at all.  Government agencies, particularly those government agencies charged with vital functions such as ensuring public health and food safety.. should not seek to "operate more like a business."  One gets the impression that Gee is just throwing lawmakers' own rhetoric back in their faces with this. But, then, that's how bad policy becomes standard.

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