DENVER (AP) – If honking motorists and your boss are making you tense, Jeff Peckman thinks he has the answer: Force the city to come up with a stress-busting plan.
The former transcendental meditation teacher collected enough signatures to put a proposal on the November ballot requiring the City Council to reduce stress in hopes of “defusing political, religious and ethnic tension worldwide.”
It’s a plan that isn’t exactly putting him in harmony with the council.
“It’s fantasy. We live in Denver, Colorado, not in Disney World,” said Councilman Charlie Brown. “What are we supposed to do, hand out incense sticks at Denver International Airport? Is that the image we want for our city?”
The Rocky Mountain News weighed in with an editorial that said: “Why are Denver voters being subjected to the fantasies of this lunatic fringe?”
Peckman said large groups of people meditating can reduce stress throughout society, and the city has a duty to abate health pressures.
“The buildup of society-wide stress is like a new pollution in the environment,” he said.
Although a metropolis like New York City might be a more likely candidate for a stress-reduction mandate, there are plenty of stressful things in Denver.
The city’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in June and the number of homicides this year is nearly tied with the number for all of last year. The fatal police shooting of a mentally disabled black teenager has raised tension in some neighborhoods, and the state leads the nation in West Nile virus deaths and overall human cases.
“You almost have to move out to the farms or the suburbs to get peace anymore,” said Dave Sterner, a city traffic signal technician who hears squealing tires and honking horns most days.
Still, he said he didn’t need the city telling him how to relax.
“I don’t think it’s up to the city. They already have enough controls over us,” he said.
Sharon Kaiser said she would be angry if someone ordered her to meditate. Plus, she said, “It’s a waste of money.”
Brown suggested helping people find jobs amid the state’s $70 million budget shortfall would be better than a mandate to reduce stress.
Councilman Doug Linkhart said he is all for reducing crime and encouraging neighbors to get along. He just doesn’t think meditation is the way to do it.
“We’re a long ways from that,” he said. “Maybe Boulder’s closer.”
The college town of Boulder, 25 miles away, has passed ordinances protecting prairie dogs and calling pet owners “guardians.” Peckman, 49, said he chose to launch his proposal in Denver because it’s his hometown.
Peckman also said research by the Institute of Science Technology and Public Policy shows that meditation is successful.