Council reviews potential smoking ban before a full house

April 30, 2013

It was a full house at council chambers Monday during a special Sedalia City Council work session to discuss a possible smoking ban ordinance.

After looking at similar ordinances in other cities including Lee’s Summit, Warrensburg and Washington, city staff brought a draft ordinance to council for discussion. The proposed ordinance is a comprehensive across-the-board measure, banning smoking in all enclosed public places, restaurants, bars, city buildings, parks, private clubs including the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591 and the Moose Lodge, and certain outdoor public places such as within 20 feet of a building.

City Attorney Anne Gardner noted this was just the first draft of the ordinance. The council could change it as it saw fit.

Newly elected Ward 4 Councilman Larry Stevenson had a few sticking points with the proposal, especially the private clubs issue.

“As a member of the VFW, for us, bingo brings in 80 percent of our gross income,” he said. “If there’s a smoking ban and we lose those people who want to smoke and play bingo, there’s a good chance the VFW will no longer exist.”

Also concerned with business owners, Stevenson asked Gardner if a grandfather clause provision could be put into the ordinance, to allow current restaurant and bar owners the ability to stay smoking establishments. The current draft of the ordinance does not allow for a grandfather clause, but Gardner did note council could set a 90-day enactment time to give owners adequate time to go smoke-free.

“We’re being awfully rough,” Stevenson said. “I have a great concern about what this is going to do to business.”

Ward 1 Councilwoman Jo Lynn Turley said when Smith-Cotton High School went to smoke-free bingo, business increased.

“I’ve heard from several people that when bingo was smoking, they couldn’t get anyone to volunteer because people didn’t want to be around it,” she said. “And now numbers are up. I think some businesses may see a little bit of a drop-off, maybe, but it would be temporary until people got used to

the ban.”

Ward 4 Councilman Tollie Rowe agreed, saying he was in favor of a comprehensive ban.

“I think an across-the-board ordinance is what we should vote on,” he said. “And I think we should be the ones to vote (instead of a public vote.) We need to make this decision ourselves and it’s time we step up the plate. It’s our call to make.”

During the public comments portion of the meeting council heard from several people on both sides of the issue. Representatives from the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association were on hand to give medical facts and statistics on the dangers of secondhand smoke, as well as local representatives.

“We know smoking is a health issue,” said JoAnn Martin, Pettis County Health Center administrator and representative of Clean Air Sedalia. “We have a great American tradition of our government protecting our health, looking back to just regulating the food and drug industries. That’s what our elected and appointed officials do: We protect our people.”

Sedalia resident Misty Hoehns told council about her son who suffers from severe asthma. A few years ago she and her husband went out to eat with friends at a restaurant that allowed smoking.

“We sat in the nonsmoking section with our son, but he started to have an asthma attack,” she said. “We had to rush him to the hospital for treatment. My son doesn’t get to have a say about smoking. We have to be his advocate.”

On the other side of the aisle, Freda Hurley, owner of EndZone, questioned how the ban would effect her business.

“It’s not fair,” she said. “My customers will just go out to the county and the bars out there. I think it should be on the ballot and should include the county, not just the city.”

Sedalia resident Mary Merritt said while she isn’t a smoker and has never smoked, she was opposed to the ban on the grounds that it infringed too much on a business owner’s rights.

“Frankly, I have no doubt that if this went to a public vote it would probably pass,” she said. “But I don’t think we need this micro-management of a business’ rights.”

Ward 1 Councilman Steve Galliher suggested bringing the draft ordinance to the next council meeting for a vote, but Stevenson disagreed with the idea, saying the council was “moving too fast and working to slide this by” the public.

The group ultimately decided to continue to talk to constituents, seek out more information and discuss the matter further at another work session, scheduled for May 13.