Archive for Thursday, April 6, 2006

Mayor sides with opponents of citywide smoking ban

April 6, 2006

Mayor Kenneth Bernard has joined opponents of a proposed ban on smoking in all indoor public places in Lansing.

Bernard voiced his opposition last week at a City Council work session.

"I'll say upfront I do smoke, but I also go to restaurants where smoking is not allowed. I go to restaurants where smoking is allowed. It doesn't bother me one way or the other," Bernard said at the session Thursday, March 30. "But frankly, I think it's a matter of choice. : I'm saying, where is a person's freedom?"

Though several council members had previously tipped their hand on their stand on the ban, no majority has developed either way - at least publicly. Andi Pawlowski, Dee Hininger and Kenneth Ketchum have expressed deep reservations; Robert Ulin and Billy Blackwell are on the record supporting a ban.

Council members Don Studnicka, Dave Trinkle Jr. and Harland Russell have not made their stances known.

Pawlowski and Ketchum were the most vocal opponents to the ban during Thursday's discussion, which included presentations by an epidemiologist with the state health department and the father of the Lansing college student who originally asked the council to adopt a ban.

Pawlowski said a ban would cost Lansing dearly.

"If we say no smoking in Lansing, and somebody - say Outback (Steakhouse) - identifies northern Leavenworth County as a place for a restaurant, what do you think they're going to do?" Pawlowski asked. "They're not going to come here. We have worked our tail off trying to get businesses to come to Lansing."

Ulin was unbowed and said if smoking was the cost of attracting business the council was in the wrong business.

"As far as I'm concerned, the public health issue trumps the economic issue every day of the week, and we have a responsibility to protect public health and safety," Ulin said.

He repeated his call to smoking ban opponents for a referendum on the question.

"I think that if we're going to be a leader instead of a follower, we ought to take the lead and we ought to ban smoking in the city. If you don't agree with that, then put it to a public vote because if you put it on the ballot, I think the people will vote to ban smoking."

Pawlowski said she disagreed.

"I've had 10-to-1 people call me and say, 'I don't smoke, but I don't want you telling me where I can go and where I can't,'" she said.

Ketchum suggested a simple solution to the issue.

"I smoke, and I will not support the no-smoking ban," Ketchum said. "I believe it is (up to) the manager, the owner of the place of business. If they want a smoking place, put a sign on the door that says, 'This is a smoking establishment.' If you are not, then you put one that says, 'This is a non-smoking establishment.' That solves the whole problem."

One audience member spoke to the council about the issue. Paul Swope, a retired Hallmark employee, told council members he felt as if he were living in the George Orwell novel "1984," with Big Brother looking over his every move.

"Since I have been reading about this in The Lansing Current, I have been sitting at home and fuming about this," Swope said. "It's nobody else's business what anybody does."

Bernard, who would vote only to break a tie, said he would schedule a council vote later this month.

"So on (April) 20th, we'll take a vote whether or not we're going to write an ordinance : and we'll go from there," Bernard told the audience.

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