We used to joke that senility was a prerequisite for service on a county board.
That old joke kind of fell by the wayside as younger people started getting elected to county boards statewide but action by Kenosha County supervisors last night makes you wonder whether senility isn't just a function of old age.
The board voted 15-10 not to support a resolution backing a tougher statewide smoke-free proposal now in the Wisconsin legislature.
Supervisor James Huff -- recently retired from the Kenosha Police Department -- came out with an argument that clearly establishes him as a candidate for enlightenment.
Huff says he doesn't like cigarettes but doesn't want to infringe on the "rights" of private business owners. He also came up with this doozie: if the legislature can crack down on smoking today, maybe they'll ban trans-fats tomorrow.
While Huff doesn't smoke cigarettes, maybe he's smoking something else to come up with that haze.
The fact is that the government already regulates -- and appropriately so -- health and safety in the workplace. Not only is second-hand smoke a well-documented health hazard, research from California, where statewide smoke-free dining became the law years ago, shows a sharp decline in heart disease and cancer rates among workers in the once-smoky hospitality industry. Further, virtually every reputable piece of data shows that smoke-free workplace laws don't hurt business and, in fact, sales often increase.
A much more enlighted supervisor, Jennifer Jackson, recognizes that smoke-free legislation is designed to protect workers, such as her son who works in a restaurant to pay for school.
While Huff may huff-and-puff some lame rhetoric, he ignores the fact that the county board several years ago enacted a county-wide clean indoor air ordinance and the fact that one of the strongest supporters of the proposed statewide legislation is the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, once one of the tobacco industry's closest allies. He also ignores that Illinois just adopted a tougher statewide law.
Huff isn't alone. There were 14 other county board members who also didn't see through the smokescreen. One of them was Fred Ekornaas, who has ties to Dairyland Greyhound Park, hardly a smoke-free environment, and whose brother is a bar owner.
Hopefully our legislature will rely on wisdom far more intelligent than that displayed last night.