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At City Hall, Not Seeing Moderation in All Things.

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By Ann Tyller | August 27, 2012 6:03 pm

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would have done well to follow his own advice about food and apply it to policing: everything in moderation.

The mayor has caught grief on both fronts. Many people don’t like his plan to bring huge servings of sugary drinks down to saner levels. Many also disapprove of the ever-growing numbers of New Yorkers who are stopped, questioned and often frisked on the street. How much these two categories of the disaffected overlap is hard to tell.

With sodas and the like, quite a few New Yorkers seem to regard it as their God-given right to gulp from containers that are not much smaller than the Stanley Cup. Their ranks no doubt include some who also believe that no meal is worth eating except on a dish the size of a manhole cover.

Well, you may say, that’s their choice. Perhaps. But we all know the consequences of Brobdingnagian caloric intakes. The city, like the rest of the country, is trapped in an epidemic of obesity that amounts to a public-health menace. Ultimately, taxpayers bear much of the burden. Everyone thus has a stake in this.

All that the mayor proposes is to get a grip on one aspect of the crisis by limiting the size of sugary drinks at places already regulated by the city, like movie theaters, street carts and fast-food outlets. He isn’t prohibiting you from buying that soda. He’s saying each portion needs to be smaller. You want to drink 32 ounces? Fine. You’ll just have to do it with two 16-ounce containers.

The theory is that people tend to consume whatever is on their plate or in their glass. Downsize the portions, and perhaps over time you will downsize the people as well. Will this idea work? Who knows. But it seems better than sitting by idly, resigned to an ever-widening populace.

For this effort, Mr. Bloomberg has come in for his share of ridicule, in part because he announced the soda restrictions a day before joining a celebration of National Donut Day. To some, it seemed hypocritical. Fattening sodas are bad, but fattening doughnuts are all right?

The mayor had a reasonable response. “One doughnut’s not going to hurt you,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show. “In moderation, most things are O.K.”

He made a similar point at the Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday when he discussed his fondness for B.L.T. sandwiches slathered with mayonnaise. (Musing about a bacon-based dish at a Jewish-themed event may not be the coolest move, but that’s a separate matter.)

“If you have one a month, that’s O.K.,” Mr. Bloomberg said, adding: “It’s putting things in moderation.” The goal is the same with sugary drinks, he said. It is “to give people encouragement to do things in moderation.”

You have to wonder, then, how it is that he has not seen the virtue of moderation in other aspects of governance, specifically so-called stop-and-frisks, which mostly make targets of young black and Latino men.

Talk about super-sizing! The number of such stops last year was 600 percent greater than what it was in Mr. Bloomberg’s first year in office, 2002. Yes, crime has gone down over that stretch, but not by any measure comparable to the huge expansion of police stops that the mayor has blessed.

When numbers reach such proportions, a backlash is inevitable. Sure enough, it has come. Even Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has decided that super-sized policing can be, if you will, nutritionally empty.

On Monday, Mr. Cuomo proposed changes in the law to reduce the arrests of New Yorkers carrying small amounts of marijuana found only because officers stopped those people and made them empty their pockets. A consensus seems to have formed that this police practice makes criminals of too many people who are guilty of nothing more than a minor offense. Mr. Bloomberg — who, by the way, once admitted to having tried marijuana himself, and enjoyed it — endorsed the Cuomo proposal, even though to some extent it repudiates his own police force’s more aggressive tactics.

Moderation is now approved for more than reducing obesity. Crime prevention, too, is apparently not always best delivered in 32-ounce portions.

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