There has been, and continues to be, considerable confusion over the process and fate of the "No Smoking" petition. One thing is certain, it will not be on the May 8 ballot as supporters had hoped for. Another is nearly certain; the petition itself is not "dead", just delayed until the November election. Despite some confusion over controlling legal language, petitioners had sufficient case law to override black-letter Charter and State Statute language: the signatures were legally validated and sufficient in number.
The "Special agenda" raised some Council hackles. It was legal, but it was also "irregular". No one I spoke to recalls the last special agenda. More importantly, as City Manager Dominguez explained today, with the procedural steps involved, it was simply too late, even had Council taken delivery of petition today, to get it on the May ballot.
A nit-picky procedural point, but of importance; success of the petition does NOT mean voters will ever see the issue. Under Charter rules (so far unchallenged) there are two other possible outcomes. After acceptance of the petition, publication in the newspaper, and a regular agenda hearing for public comment, Council can look at the whole 12 page proposal, agree with it, approve it as submitted, then it is law.
Council can also offer amendments, after which the referring committee (NOT the 4421 signers, just the 5 committee members) can agree to the amended version, Council approves, then it is law. No frisky, unpredictable voters involved in either scenario. If any media outlet in town has mentioned this point, I missed it.
I would like to "clear the air", metaphorically on a point many people seem to be confused on. The use of the term "public place" is defined in petition, but few people appear to have read the 12 pages of proposal. Some have mentioned "not wanting to be subjected to smoke while waiting to renew my license", or buying groceries, or going to the Mall, at the movies, one even included going to church! I want to know about this church which allows smoking in the pews, I may start attending!
Point is, I don't know if they are going by old memories or just don't get out much, but all these places already prohibit smoking. No gov't office allows smoking. Most of these bans have been in place for 10-20 years. I won't claim numbers, but a "doorway" survey, looks like about half of restaurants are completely smoke-free, and that number is growing by the owners' free choice. While most bars still allow smoking, we have at least three that are smoke-free, and seem to be thriving. That success may encourage more bars to follow suit, depending on the owners' judgement of what the customers want.
I could see supporting some form of this law if there were an actual problem avoiding second-hand smoke. Truth is, a body can live a long and full life in San Angelo without ever entering an establishment which allows smoking.
The parts of this proposal I object are: it unneccessarily overrides the right of a PRIVATE business owner; it fails to make the public health case, as the smoke is easily avoided; and if one reads all of it, it imposes uncalled for burdens even on businesses which already prohibit smoking.
It doesn't take 12 pages to say "no smoking". The proposed ordinance requires new record keeping and continuing education by Board of Health, all places would have to post "no smoking" signs and remove all ashtrays. Better pull that "paraphenalia" off the shelves, Wal-Mart! The Colonels Pipe Shop can just close, he's not allowed to "share a common wall", nor is he allowed to move! Sports venues; can't smoke in the "seating area", but presumably the coach and players can indulge on the field. Forget that they petition a "San Angelo City Commission" which doesn't exist, hasn't since at least 1917. My guess, this will take a bit of amending.
This has not been defeated or undone. Petitioners' errors and the set-back to Nov. will allow for a clearer understanding of the details, amendment, perhaps reasonable exceptions, possibly defeat at the polls. To be sure, everyone has time to step back, take a deep breath, maybe even look at the particulars.
P.S. Link to proposed ordinance on Standard Times or on ConchoInfo. City charter and code of ordinances can be found here and chapter 47 on I&R here.