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At a city council meeting Monday night, the discussion surrounded the “Clean Indoor Air Act of 2011” which bans smoking indoors in public businesses. A new initiative petition with signatures gathered by “Live Free Springfield” brought the possibility of repealing that ordinance to the attention of city council. KSMU’s Matthew Barnes reports.
With the original smoking ban passing by a narrow margin--about 53.5% for and 46.6% against it--residents of Springfield have already presented another initiative petition to repeal or amend the current smoking ordinance.
Many members of the public met in front of council to state their opinions concerning the current ban. One was Scott Morris, Manager of the local bar, "Billiards." He says he has lost business since the smoking ban was enacted.
“Local bands are suggesting that booking out of town makes more sense. If they are playing for the revenue at the door they are going out of town, because they can’t get the people into the bar. They can’t get the energy flowing in the bar because when there in the bar half the people are outside smoking,” says Morris.
The organization One Air Alliance supports the across the board ban of smoking indoors. Some businesses in favor of prohibiting smoking indoors still agree the original language is too strict.
Will Scruggs is owner of Smoke 51 Outlet, which sells electronic cigarettes.
“When I have done my research and looked at other organization and states like for example Colorado, which has a smoking ban, they allow for intelligent exceptions. You can smoke in a smoke shop. Gaming facilities like bingo you can smoke there, concert halls over 15,000 you can smoke there. Electronic cigarettes are not included in those so those are allowed,” says Scruggs.
If passed by a majority vote, city council would have the power to repeal or amend the current smoking ban--that's how the city attorney interprets the city charter.
If the petition to remove the smoking ban doesn’t pass council vote, it will once again be left up to the public to vote for a complete repeal. And that, according to Chris Slate owner of the Albatross hookah lounge, is not a desirable choice.
“I think that in this petition initiative process in the city of Springfield you get somebody that has a very one extreme or the other idea presenting it before council. And then whether or not council agrees with them comes into play if somebody has something that’s so far fetch that council doesn’t agree with them it then goes to a public vote and that public is not all ways going to be the most educated on the subject,” says Slate.
While the council heard a broad range of cases for and against the ban, Mayor Jim O’Neal felt this has brought to light some issues with the initiative petition process itself.
“The initiative process is wide open as evidence here in this smoking ordinance it was passed by the people less than a year ago and another initiative petition has come forth to repeal that. And we will have to put that on the ballot which is what I think will happen or we have to pass it and I don’t think that will happen,” says O'Neal.
According to the Mayor, city council amending the bill would not protect it from the initiative petition process changing it yet again.
“If we were to pass this ordinance and try to amend it and amended it to a point that didn’t satisfy the petitioners all they have to do is go back start another petition,” says O’Neal.
Currently an initiative petition only requires 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent municipal election. The mayor says the city is considering charter amendments to change this.
“We’re considering maybe making it a percent of the registered voters and not participants in the last municipal election and that could raise the bar substantially...but the question is how high is too high and how low is too low,” says O’Neal.
The mayor says continued discussion of charter amendments could start as soon as August.
For KSMU News, I’m Matthew Barnes.