How far should cities go to protect people from poor decisions?

“In Omaha, the city banned sledding at a popular hill as a test one winter after losing a lawsuit, but decided to allow it again after most people ignored the restriction,” writes Scott McFetridge for the Associated Press.

“It wasn’t practical,” assistant city attorney Tom Mumgaard said. “People wouldn’t abide by the ban.”

Instead, the city has posted signs warning of sledding risks and workers at the site of the failed ban put pads around posts and hay bales around trees. Mumgaard said courts in Nebraska have decided cities must protect people, even if they make poor choices.

Most people realize that cities must restrict potentially dangerous activities to protect people and guard against costly lawsuits, said Kenneth Bond, a New York lawyer who represents local governments. In the past, people might have embraced a Wild West philosophy of individuals being solely responsible for their actions, but now they expect government to prevent dangers whenever possible.

“It’s a great idea on the frontier, but we don’t live on the frontier anymore,” Bond said.

Today’s Question: How far should cities go to protect people from poor decisions?