WarrenSeptember 19, 2012
Council tables mayor’s smoking ban
By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer
WARREN — Mayor Jim Fouts’ efforts to restrict smoking near city buildings have been seemingly put out, at least for now.
Members of the Warren City Council voted 4-3 on Sept. 11 to table the mayor’s request to put an ordinance in place banning smoking within 100 feet of all city buildings, including City Hall, the Christopher M. Wouters Police Headquarters and the 37th District Court.
The request came after the mayor ordered signs installed at the buildings late last month that announced the ban, and after Chief Judge John Chmura had them removed at the 37th District Court after claiming the mayor’s unilaterally-imposed ban was not supported by the law.
Council members Robert Boccomino, Kelly Colegio, and Cecil St. Pierre voted against the motion to table discussion of the proposed ordinance.
“I think the mayor is very proactive in taking steps that ensure the safety of the residents in the city,” Colegio said, citing a list of dangers to adults and children arising from secondhand smoke. “If you’re a smoker, I know you have a right, but you don’t have a right to blow it in the average resident’s face as they’re walking in a door.”
Council Secretary Scott Stevens, who made the motion to table, said he’d prefer to see the city enforce existing standards already in place at the state level.
According to an executive order signed by Gov. John Engler in 1992, the state’s law governing smoking in public places extends “a reasonable distance” from all entrances to state government facilities, with that distance defined by the head of the occupying department or agency.
“Unfortunately, I don’t believe that we can legislate common courtesy,” Stevens said. “I think that there are rude people out there, and they’re going to be rude if it was 100 feet or 1,000 feet. It’s unfortunate, but I think that’s the society that we live in today, or what we’ve become.”
The motion to table silenced City Council discussion on the matter, but before that City Attorney James Biernat said he wasn’t sure that the existing state statute included a specific distance requirement.
During the discussion, Biernat said the law would allow a municipality to impose an ordinance tougher than the state statute, but not one that was more lenient.
Because it was tabled, the matter could again be brought up for discussion at a later date.
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