If You Need an Oblivious Defense of Municipal Money Grabs, the L.A. Times Is There for You

Certainly Santa Monica taxing park trainers is all about safety and cannot possibly be for selfish purposes, right?


After ReasonTV's Tracy Oppenheimer and Kennedy explored Santa Monica's efforts to regulate and foist additional taxes onto fitness trainers who hold classes in their parks, our lovely, brilliant commenters here at Hit & Run were able to immediately see what was really happening. It was obviously a municipal money grab disguised as an alleged need to keep fitness buffs from overwhelming the park.

So when the Los Angeles Times editorial board easily accepts the city's argument without any sort of critical analysis, are they just being willfully ignorant or simply serving as typical Nanny State lapdogs? Or is that a false choice? Anyway, of course their editorial position is in favor of regulation:

Angelenos are resigned to grappling with gridlock on our streets. But we don't expect to encounter traffic in our parks.

Unfortunately, though, some parks have become nearly as congested as our thoroughfares. Instead of cars, we're dodging yoga mats, hand weights and the exercisers who wield them. Santa Monica's signature Palisades Park, an expanse of grass and leafy trees that runs along Ocean Avenue from Adelaide Drive to Colorado Avenue, has become a mecca for fitness boot camps, private yoga classes, weight trainers and all manner of exercise groups.

What's most amusing about this opening metaphor is the slide show accompanying the editorial, featuring trainers and classes in session in the park. The photos are all beautifully shot, and in several of them you can see plenty of lovely unused park space. The park stretches 1.5 miles long and is 26.4 acres in size. The Times notes 73 group classes take place there over a given week. That's 10 per day. Fundamentally that's not a lot of classes, though I'm going to guess they end up clumped up at certain times to accommodate work schedules of the customers and such. But even if all the classes happened at once, there's a lot of space.

Here's an infuriating paragraph:

Santa Monica may move in that direction as well; it's considering raising existing user and permit fees and limiting class sizes as well as hours of operation. After all, a trainer doing business in a well-groomed public park is reaping the benefits of a place tended by municipal workers. There is already a litany of regulations in Santa Monica governing recreational use of parks, including restrictions on hours, athletic equipment, noise levels and where a dog can be off-leash. It would not be unreasonable to add regulations on exercise classes. Among other things, no instructor should be allowed to tell other park users to move.

  • Regarding "reaping the benefits" of a public park: Many of these folks are already paying for this benefit via taxation. They are "the public." I wonder how much additional sales tax revenue Santa Monica brings in from any additional commerce these fitness buffs may engage in while they're in the area. I find it extremely unlikely these fitness buffs are costing the city any more money for park maintenance than would be paid if they weren't there, and as ReasonTV noted, the money they collect would go into the city's general fund.
  • "There are already regulations, so nobody should have a problem with more of them" is a terrible, stupid argument. Government regulation needs to serve an actual legitimate safety purpose. "Well, we're already doing this stuff," is just lazy nonsense.
  • If you need the city to tell people in a public park that you're not moving on your behalf, you are not ready to participate in adult society.

In conclusion: "Spontaneous Order." Look it up.

In the event you missed Kennedy sneaking in a workout while covering the debate, check it out: