Monday, September 14, 2009
Smoking Ordinance - Down for the Count!
by Greg Walters I have been out of town for the last week and a half so I had some catching up to do this weekend on what has happened in Raytown in my absence. Most surprising, at least to this writer, is that the much cussed and discussed smoking ordinance failed to pass muster with the Raytown Board of Aldermen. Failed is a weak term. It was trounced. At the end of all the debate, compromises and political maneuvering, the bill died a quick death by a vote of three “yes” to seven “no” votes. For the record, the "YES" votes were Aldermen Jim Aziere, Jim Hamilton and Pat Ertz. Voting "NO" were Joe Creamer, Shane Pardue, Christine White, Bill Van Buskirk, Charlotte Melson, Michael Lightfoot and Steve Mock. So, what happened? Ordinances banning smoking in public places have been hot items these past few years. Whenever public votes are held on the issue, as was done in Independence and Lee’s Summit, the voters usually show their support with landslide results in favor of the bans. Even in Kansas City, where a large tobacco firm underwrote a campaign against a smoking ban, the public still voted its approval of a ban. In Raytown, the ordinance has had a tortured path at best. Ward 2 Alderman Jim Aziere pushed and shoved for nearly two years to finally get the ban on the agenda. His persistence paid off and he had his day – so what went wrong? In retrospect . . . plenty. The city hired an out of town consultant to help guide the Board through the process of writing the legislation. The final bill is not in, yet. But city staff did budget $7,800.00 for a consultant to shepherd the bill through the legislative process. Was it a waste of money? You tell me. For $7,800.00 the City of Raytown basically paid for a copy of a Blue Springs, Missouri ordinance. But that is not what cost the votes on the bill. The anti-smoking ordinance considered by the Raytown Board was a compromise. It allowed smoking in some restaurants and bars. Normally, this compromise would satisfy even the most ardent opponent to anti-smoking legislation . . . however, this is Raytown. And the current Board of Aldermen is a very interesting mix of people. I count three that are very conservative. But in their conservatism they saw the anti-smoking legislation as a slap at the personal freedoms of smokers and business owners. Still, that is only three votes. Another block of the Board is unique because they are smokers. So it is understandable that they would be opposed to legislation banning a habit they practice. That brought the total to five "no" votes. What really drove the nail through coffin of the anti-smoking legislation was language that some thought would make the bill more palatable to supporters of the legislation. That language banned smoking in establishments where people 18 years and younger were present. This pretty much eliminated bowling alleys, some restaurants and any business where young ones may gather with their parents. The Board was on the right track when it worked out a compromise on the legislation that would have exempted areas where smokers routinely gather. But they reached too far by including the exclusionary language setting age limitations. A hard lesson learned . . . and one that will cost Raytown. Why? Because people often times vote with their feet. They don’t go to restaurants where smoking is allowed. Those super-majority victories in Lee’s Summit and Independence for the anti-smoking crowd were not an accident. They clearly showed that the majority of the people living in those areas are very opposed to smoking in public places. Raytowners are not that much different than those living to the north and east. Perhaps Aziere will be able to regroup his forces and work for a compromise that is not so limiting in its scope. But given the tendency of this administration to drag its feet on darn near everything it is unlikely that will happen anytime in the near future. HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RECORDS Watch this page for regular updates of local high school varsity sports. O'Hara High School.....................3 win / 0 loss Raytown High School...................1 win / 2 loss Raytown South High School............2 win / 1 loss