After more than three hours of tedious discussion and debate, the council voted today 10-5 to prohibit smoking in bars, pool halls and within 15 feet of public buildings effective April 10, with council members Sheffie Kadane, Steve Salazar, Mitchell Rasansky, Tennell Atkins and Vonciel Hill voting in opposition. But before the vote was taken or any speakers were heard, Mayor Tom Leppert entertained a motion from Atkins (and seconded by Hill) to delay the item, which failed 9-6.
Atkins asked why the decision was being rushed, and said he received nearly 5,000 letters from people on both sides of the issue. Hill said the council was not prepared to move forward and wanted to wait for the Legislature to make a decision on a proposed statewide ban in the upcoming session. Rasansky said it's "not fair" that the council hadn't heard from Dr. James Enstrom of UCLA.
"What really ticks me off about this is we haven't heard from the other side," he said. "We're rushing this as we rush a lot of things down here."
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After the motion to delay failed, Leppert said both sides would get 12 minutes each, which agitated Rasansky. He criticized Leppert for giving such little time to people who had taken days off from work. Leppert challenged Rasansky to make a motion to extend the time, but Rasansky balked, claiming not all of the council members were in the room. As the ordinance opponents were nearing the end of their time, Rasansky did make a motion to extend the times of both time by five minutes, which passed 13-2 (Leppert and Davis voted against it).
Nothing new was said by any of the public speakers, and, once again, the proponents were wearing red shirts with "I support a smoke-free Dallas" on the front and opponents wearing yellow shirts with "Support business rights, save our jobs" on the front and stickers reading "Save our jobs!" Former council member Al Lipscomb simply referred to the revised ordinance as "bad policy."
Leppert limited council members to three minutes for a first round of comments, followed by an opportunity to introduce amendments and then another round of comments. As the first round was wrapping up, the vote was clearly going to be a slam-dunk based on what was said. It was only a matter of what amendments would gain traction, such as one predicted here on Unfair Park banning smoking in a car with a child, which was introduced by Jerry Allen.
However, of the 10 amendments introduced by six council members, only one was approved. The definition of a cigar bar was changed from 20 percent of revenue coming from tobacco sales to 15 percent. More on all of this tomorrow morning, but for now, I'm going to go out for a nicotine fix at the closest bar I can find while I still can. Sure, I gave up smoking years ago, but I feel like exercising my rights while I still got 'em. --Sam Merten