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Mayor holding off on veto
Kyle needs more time to make decision on smoking ordinance

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

The day Mayor Don Kyle was expected to decide whether to veto Decatur's new smoking ordinance has come and gone.

But he released no decision.

Friday was the day. But that afternoon, Kyle said he needed more time to consider the comprehensive ordinance that prohibits public smoking citywide. He gave no estimate of when he would make that determination.

"I'm still waiting to hear back from some city councilmen to discuss the matter," Kyle said. "I'm also waiting to hear back from a few local citizens before I decide."

Has until Thursday

Originally, Kyle said he hoped to make his decision before this weekend. Under the city code, he has until Thursday to veto the ordinance and present his written objections to the council.

Passed 3-2 by the City Council on Monday, the ordinance bans smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants and outdoor sporting arenas.

Kyle said he supports stronger smoking laws, but not to the extent the new ordinance goes. Asserting that an all-out ban will hurt some small businesses, Kyle proposed a smoking ordinance similar to Huntsville's.

It lets business owners choose whether they will allow smoking, but forbids those who allow it from serving to or hiring minors.

If Kyle vetoes the ordinance, it is unlikely he can get enough votes on the council to pass his own version. Of the three councilmen who supported the ordinance Monday, President Billy Jackson (District 1), David Bolding (District 2) and Ronny Russell (District 4) all have said they are not willing to compromise.

According to Russell, who sponsored the ordinance, a 100 percent ban is the only viable option for Decatur because allowing business owners to choose will lead to their employees being exposed to unwanted secondhand smoke.

The debate has become a hot-button issue for Decatur residents. Hundreds attended Monday's City Council meeting, and Kyle said his office has been flooded with e-mails, letters and phone calls both for and against the ordinance.

On Thursday eight people gathered in a rally at the Decatur City Hall to express support of the new smoking ordinance.

"We think it's good for everybody. We think it's a very progressive action for the city, and we don't see any downside to it," said protester Becky Bell.

Since Monday's vote, it has become apparent the council cannot muster the two-thirds majority needed to override a mayoral veto.

Both of the two councilmen who voted against the ordinance, Gary Hammon (District 3) and Ray Metzger (District 5), said they will not change their votes to appease the other councilmen.

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