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Council resisting smoking changes
Kyle plans to propose amendments to ordinance

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

When Mayor Don Kyle asks the City Council this month to make changes to Decatur’s new comprehensive smoking ordinance, his request may fall on deaf ears.

Kyle plans to propose amendments during a City Council meeting Sept. 17.

He said Monday that he will recommend that the council exempt businesses that mostly serve alcohol or have a separate room and environmental system for smokers.

He also calls for exemptions to allow employee smoking in businesses that the public does not frequent.

As the ordinance stands today, it bans smoking in all public places, including restaurants, bars and all places of employment. But Kyle says it needs to be adjusted before it takes effect Oct. 1.

Hurts small businesses?

“I think when you have a comprehensive ordinance, you miss some of the uniqueness of small businesses, particularly the tiny ones,” Kyle said. “And I think they are the ones that stand to be hurt the most by this new ordinance.”

Kyle vowed to push for amendments to the ordinance when he announced Aug. 16 that he would not veto it.

He originally said he would wait to see what impact it had on local businesses before pushing for changes, but he now says some small businesses can’t wait that long and will probably fail if the ordinance goes into effect as is.

But it is unlikely Kyle’s proposals will receive a warm reception from the council majority that passed the ordinance 3-2 on Aug. 6.

On Friday, Councilmen David Bolding, District 2; Ronny Russell, District 4; and Billy Jackson, council president, said they will not support any changes to the ordinance before it has a chance to succeed or fail.

Case of grandstanding?

“To propose an amendment to something that hasn’t even been enacted yet is grandstanding,” Bolding said.

Jackson, District 1, said it concerned him that Kyle chose to go public with his proposal before discussing it with council members.

“If he was very serious about it, it appears he would have taken the changes to the council before going to the media with it,” Jackson said.

“Maybe it’s an opportunity for him to try to gain back some of the support that he feels he’s lost.”

Asked how he thought the council would react, Kyle said he didn’t know, but he had to try.

“I think I just have to present these concerns to them in the same way they were presented to me,” he said. “There are unique situations here that are worthy of a second look.”

Kyle, a former smoker, had 10 days to veto the ordinance last month. He stated publicly he had reservations about the impact on business, but he said he could not veto the ordinance knowing Decatur children would continue dining in smoke-filled restaurants without it.

“I feel that a veto would result, at best, with a protracted discussion about the merits of many ordinance types or a refusal to discuss the issue,” he said at the time.

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