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Kyle may wait till last minute to decide smoking ban

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

Mayor Don Kyle said Monday he may wait until the last minute to decide whether to veto Decatur’s new smoking ordinance.

By law, Kyle has until Thursday to veto the ordinance, which passed in a 3-2 decision Aug. 6. The ordinance prohibits smoking in all public places, including restaurants, bars and outdoor sporting arenas. If allowed to stand, it will take effect Oct. 1.

During a City Council work session Monday, Kyle appeared to be backing off what he called his “gut reaction” against the smoking ordinance. He said he will base his decision on what the public wants, not his initial reaction.

“You’ve spoken with your votes, and I’ll make my decision with the citizens of this city, whether or not they agree with my initial reactions,” Kyle told the council.

The mayor said he will use the remainder of his time before the Thursday deadline to continue reading letters and e-mails, and taking telephone calls about the ordinance.

“I’ll make my decision as soon as I can get through the last of that mountain,” he said.

Since the smoking ordinance was first proposed more than a month ago, Kyle has expressed concerns that it would have a negative impact on small-business owners.

Council President Billy Jackson said he doesn’t think the ordinance will hurt any local businesses because it treats them all equally.

“I think it hurts the businesses if they can pick and choose because it creates an uneven playing field,” he said.

District 5 City Councilman Ray Metzger, however, said the councilmen who helped design the ordinance had done a disservice by not including the mayor and others in the planning process.

Metzger said alternative opinions should have been included to help develop an ordinance that was agreeable to more people.

“I feel like we really did something wrong there,” Metzger said. “I hope he vetoes it, and then maybe we can sit down together and work out what we really need to do.”

Jackson said planning for the ordinance took place more than a month before the vote. He said the council made no attempt to conceal the ordinance from the mayor or anyone else.

Metzger brought with him Monday three local residents to speak out against the ordinance.

District 4 City Councilman Ronny Russell, who sponsored the ordinance, was not present for Monday’s meeting. According to Jackson, Russell had a scheduling conflict.

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