Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Assembly Decision On New Anchorage Anti-Smoking Ordinance Delayed

After taking testimony from 60 more people last night (July 25th, 2006) regarding the proposed new enhanced anti-smoking ordinance, and finding that two-thirds of the respondents spoke out in opposition, the Anchorage Assembly chose not to make a final decision last night. Instead, they will start their own deliberations on the ban, and take a vote on the issue possibly as early as the next Assembly meeting on August 15th. The ordinance, officially entitled The Secondhand Smoke Control Ordinance, designated AO2006-86, would end smoking in bars, private clubs, bingo parlors, and other public places, as well as within 50 feet of any municipal building or hospital, effectively extending the existing ordinance city-wide. Click here to view the ordinance. Click here for the full story from the Anchorage Daily News, and here for a report from KTUU Channel 2.

Special Note: Because of the delay, there is still time to influence the Assembly. If you live within the boundaries of the Municipality of Anchorage, and you're opposed to the new anti-smoking ordinance, click here to go to the Stomp the Ban website to sign a petition urging your Assembly Member to vote against the ordinance.

Some speakers Tuesday brought props such as charts and handouts. One man gave all Assembly members a copy of George Orwell's book "Animal Farm," an attack on totalitarianism. But mostly the ongoing debate covered familiar ground, with different people reiterating the same arguments floated since the proposed ban first popped onto the public radar in May.

Several also testified that the proposed ordinance feels incomplete or uneven: Why are hotels exempt from the ban? Should private clubs really be included? Can't bars have a grace period to prepare for the ban and expand outdoor areas for smokers?

"People passionately testify in favor of the ban and passionately testify against the ban, and if this ordinance gets an up-or-down vote, half the city is going to be pretty mad," said David Dunsmore (a graduate of Atheneum private school who ran for Mayor of Anchorage as an 18-year old back in 2003, and impressed a number of people with his preparation and poise). "I think this ordinance needs more work."

As the meeting began, people gathered outside the Loussac Library near ashtrays, with cigarettes and tobacco pipes in hand. Smokers swapped musings like, "What's next, a ban on ATVs?" and "If secondhand smoke is really a job hazard, why doesn't someone just call OSHA?"

Inside, the lobby scene played out like a split screen. On one side: adults in T-shirts that announced their right to breathe smoke-free air. They passed out stickers and candy and bottled water. On the other: "Citizens for Personal and Business Freedom of Choice," handing out American-flag stickers and bubble gum and mingling with people staffing the Libertarian Party table.

Later, one Assembly Member told KIMO Channel 13 that the ordinance will be passed, it's just a matter of what amendments will be associated with it.“Having a grace period is not a bad idea. To just simply put an immediate effective date is tough on the business community, no matter what kind of regulation you pass whether it's a sign ordinance or an ordinance like this,” said Dan Sullivan, Assembly Chair (pictured at left). “It comes in with 6 sponsors and there's only 11 assembly members so you already have a majority sponsoring it, so it's going to get passed, unless somebody has a radical change of heart and changes their mind.”

Several polls were taken throughout the community to gauge public sentiment. The most reliable was KTUU Channel 2's "unscientific" poll, which currently shows 52.63% for the ordinance, 46.00% against it, and 1.16% undecided. KTVA had a similar poll up, but took it down after it had apparently been "stuffed" by the anti-smoking fanatics, creating an artificial 75% in favor of the ordinance. The Anchorage Daily News is still soliciting public comments on the proposed ordinance.

Related Previous Posts:

Anchorage Assembly To Hold Hearings Tuesday On New Harsher Anti-Smoking Ordinance, July 9th

Update On The Proposed New Harsher Anchorage Anti-Smoking Ordinance, July 16th

Doctor Exposes Junk Science Fueling The Indianapolis Anti-Smoking Ordinance, July 17th

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