Flame On

Proposal to end
bar smoke fizzles

By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer

It took hours and hours to get there, but a proposal to end smoking inside bars was halted when three council members voted against the amendment.

For the final showdown, public comment began about 15 minutes after the meeting began at 6 p.m. and lasted until nearly 11 p.m. Bartenders, bar owners, students, health professionals legal experts and assorted residents — even longtime sports writer Nate Allen and his wife and former council member Nancy Allen as well as the mayor’s chief of staff Don Marr — all took turns at the microphone to express their opinion, one way or the other. In the end, it was what three aldermen said that sealed the amendment’s fate.
The proposal to extend the workplace smoking ordinance’s reach to bars had five votes in support of it. Adella Gray and Matthew Petty co-sponsored the amendment and were unlikely to vote against it. Brenda Thiel, Rhonda Adams and Sarah Lewis all showed clear support for idea throughout.
So that’s five votes — a majority — so game over, right? Not in this case. The current ordinance was voted into existence in a public referendum. Since Fayetteville residents had voted directly on it, any change to the ordinance would require a super majority or six votes out of eight.
If you thought council member Bobby Ferrell would do anything other than vote “No” on the amendment, you either were asleep the whole time or you come from Bizarro world where you say the opposite of reality. Had Ferrell voted for the proposal, I — and probably several others — would have stroked out right. Seriously, aneurysms all around.
That left the question of “Yes” or “No” to council members Justin Tennant and Mark Kinion. As each man spoke, it became clear, even before the vote, that the amendment would fail. Tennant said in selfish terms — a preference for nonsmoking venues and the loss of his mother-in-law, a smoker, to illness — he supported the amendment but did not believe a selfish vote was the right choice in this case. Despite his work with the American Lung Association, including teaching children about the dangers of smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke, Kinion said he believes education not additional legislation is the way to curb smoking in bars.
The amendment failed 5-3 without the required two-thirds vote.

And That’s That … Right?

Ha! It’s about as likely to remain settled as Sarah Palin is likely to admit she sounds like a complete bonehead when discussing Paul Revere.
Advocates for extending the reach of the smoking ordinance could — and very possibly will — try to gather enough signatures to put the issue to a public referendum. Then Fayetteville residents would again vote on how far they want a ban on indoor smoking to go. Or supporters could just wait a few years and try again with a potentially new council.
Plus, the issue may phase itself out on its own. There’s no big clamor to add smoking venues. If anything they’re on the decline, much as the number of smokers is on the decline. As the economic landscape changes, voting with dollars may make the debate a moot point.

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