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Smoking ban may face veto
3 Decatur councilmen favor ordinance; Kyle considers blocking measure

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle is considering using his veto power to block a proposed ordinance to ban public smoking.

The Decatur City Council will consider Monday an ordinance that prohibits smoking in all public places, including restaurants, bars and public sporting arenas.

Proposed by District 4 Councilman Ronny Russell, the ordinance will take effect Oct. 1 if approved.

Likely to pass

With Councilmen David Bolding, District 2; President Billy Jackson, District 1; and Russell saying they support the ordinance, it seems likely to pass. Only Councilmen Gary Hammon, District 3, and Ray Metzger, District 5, voiced concerns.

But even with a 3-2 majority on the council, proponents of the ordinance could have trouble getting it signed into law.

While not a voting member of the council, Kyle could veto the ordinance. He said Friday he has considered exercising his veto power to stop the smoking ban but has not made a final decision.

“I am listening to people’s comments,” he said. “But I’m going to weigh it up until the very last minute.”

Voicing opposition

During a council work session in June, Kyle opposed the proposed ordinance, warning the councilmen to think carefully before proceeding.

“If you talk to most people that do smoke — if they’re honest — I think they’ll tell you they wish they’d never started,” Kyle said. “But a businessman who is not requiring anyone to step through those doors ought to have the right to choose.”

To override Kyle’s veto, the council needs at least a two-thirds majority, which it does not have.

According to Russell, the ordinance is an attempt to protect Decatur residents from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, especially for employees at businesses that allow smoking.

“Should someone really have to choose between his or her job and health?” he asked. “I feel it is our duty as elected representatives to do everything we can to ensure the public’s health and safety, and I wholeheartedly support this ordinance.”

But not everyone sees it that way.

Rob Hall is part owner of The Brick Deli and Tavern in downtown Decatur. A reformed smoker, Hall says he does not enjoy sitting next to a smoker these days, but he also says he does not approve of the council’s attempt to ban smoking.

“I’m personally against it just for the simple fact that I don’t think you should be told what to do with your own business,” he said. “If cigarettes are so bad, they should stop selling them.”

According to Hall, 80 to 90 percent of The Brick’s nighttime customers smoke. He said he is not sure how the ban will affect his business if it passes.

“People that smoke — especially at a bar — they just want to sit around and enjoy themselves and not have to go outside to smoke a cigarette,” he said.

Other business people say they have no problem with the proposed ordinance.

Ashley Stephenson is a manager of Camino Real on Sixth Avenue Southeast. While she says the restaurant allows smoking, she does not think a ban would dramatically affect business.

“It’ll affect the people going out to eat, but I don’t think it will affect the restaurant,” she said.

Before voting, the council will hold a hearing Monday to seek public input.

By order of Jackson, the hearing will be limited to three speakers from each side of the debate. Each speaker will be limited to three minutes.

“This is an issue we could debate from here until the end of time,” Jackson said previously. “I think it’s important that we be efficient with our time and that we not be redundant with the things we are saying and covering.”

The council will meet for the public hearing and to consider the ordinance at 7 p.m. Monday in the council chambers.

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