Congratulations are in order for J.P. Twist, whose — ahem — rocky road to lifting Scottsdale’s decades-old ban on ice-cream trucks is finally over.
Twist, Mayor Jim Lane’s chief of staff, beamed after the vote as widely as any of the dozens of middle-schoolers who showed up at Tuesday’s City Council meeting in support of his pet project. Their conspicuous, unnecessary presence offered a fitting cherry on top to a debate already bloated by extraneous rhetoric and hyperbolic blather.
We’re glad the ban was lifted. We’re gladder still the matter is resolved, if only because we’ll no longer have to listen to the absurd claims made by those too invested in either side of this dismayingly contentious issue.
One of the proponents of lifting the ban told the council that “an ice-cream truck is like sunshine.” Another opined that allowing those trucks to re-enter neighborhoods would be “a win for children aged 1 to 101.”
Not everyone saw the Good Humor in that statement. One, in fact, used her three minutes of allotted time before the council to recite grisly real-life accounts of children killed or seriously injured in recent years by ice-cream trucks around the country.
The strength of her argument is brittle as a waffle cone. By that logic, we may as well ban bicycles, swing sets, swimming pools or anything else that might be hazardous to children. Ask New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg how successful attempts at such nanny-state legislation prove to be.
Nearly everyone who testified missed the point. The most relevant competing factors in this matter aren’t warm nostalgia and cold safety statistics. Few debates are quite so black-and white — or chocolate-and-vanilla, as the case may be.
No, what’s truly at the heart of this dispute is the degree to which a government should intervene in a free market. That’s hardly the sexiest way of describing a debate as colorful as this one, but then again there’s nothing all that sexy about an issue inherently more Neapolitan than cosmopolitan.
Twist did an admirable job of crafting a responsible ordinance, one that takes into account valid concerns about drivers’ backgrounds, children’s safety and the quickly grating tinkling of the music these trucks use to herald their arrival.
To deny a proposal of such self-evident sensibility on the grounds of hazy and specious fears of injury — and, more ludicrously, residential burglary — would be an unwarranted intrusion on the rights of merchants to responsibly satisfy an identified, innocent demand.
But it’s too easy to paint Tuesday’s vote as a victory for capitalism, kids and calories. If the hours of disagreement leading up to that vote proved anything, it’s that Scottsdale emerged as the real winner here.
Only in a city with no real problems could something as innocuous as ice cream inspire a double scoop of such impassioned debate.