Members of the City Council broached the idea of "smoking shelters" on Monday, facilities that could provide a haven for smokers in a city with a strict public smoking ban.
An ordinance earlier this year went into effect that extends a public smoking ban That includes a smoking ban in bars and nursing homes.
City Administrator Mark Perkins asked the council members whether they would be open to the idea of amending that ordinance to allow for "smoking shelters," structures placed outside of buildings that could protect smokers from the elements.
“We have an existing office building that has a smoking hut, and we have not taken any enforcement,” Perkins said. “We would like to bring this for discussion. We think this warrants some considering. And this facility would not be climate controlled. It would not be for any other purpose besides (smoking).”
The facilities got a mixed reaction from council members. Councilwoman Beth Kistner, Ward 1, said if a smoking shelter is being proposed where there is a restaurant or a bar, it could turn into “kind of a shanty bar location, and that would concern me.”
“If you’re going to have congregating, presumably depending on the way prevailing winds are going, you could have a conglomeration of smoke blowing in some direction,” Kistner said. “It does bring up (questions about) why it would be desirable. But I think there would be some concerns that we’re not opening up loopholes.”
Councilwoman Charlotte D’Alfonso, Ward 3, also said she was concerned about cleaning the facility up, noting that cigarette butts could accumulate at the facilities. And Councilman Robert Hoffman, Ward 3, said the move could be a bad precedent.
“I think they’ll be in public view no matter what you try to do to them,” Hoffman said. “I think we’d be taking a step backwards to open smoking shelters.”
But Councilwoman Jeanne Rhoades, Ward 4, said that while she’s not an advocate for smoking, she said that the lack of amenities for smokers causes many of them to venture to public sidewalks.
“If there’s effective screening, I’m game to entertain it,” Rhoades said.
Other notes from the council meeting:
- D'Alfonso sparked a discussion about whether a staff member should be present when a council member meets with developers. D'Alfonso said such a move would be a "proactive, transparent measure" against combating rumors about "back room deals."
“I think rumors are potentially dangerous,” D’Alfonso said. “And as a councilperson myself, I would not feel comfortable meeting with a developer without having a staff member present to protect everybody.”
The discussion was effectively prompted by the
Kistner, who said she was at a discussion with a developer about the project, said meeting with people interested in an issue is a basic part of the job as a city council member. She also said she made no promises about any action that would occur in regards to approving the restaurant.
“I don’t consider a meeting like that is anything like informal vetting,” Kistner said. “I feel like my role as a representative to be open to residents and businesses when they have issues they want to talk about.”
- The council voted to approve the operating budget for the 2012 fiscal year that begins on Friday. The budget - which can be found here - was passed without opposition.
- Mayor Harold Dielmann was absent for the meeting due to an eye infection. Since Council President Tara Nealey, Ward 2, was also not in attendance, Councilman A.J. Wang, Ward 2, was in charge of the meeting.