Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Council member makes futile bid for early vote on smoking ban

April 24, 2007

As the city of Shawnee moves forward with a task force to study a possible smoking ordinance, one Shawnee City Council member tried to force the issue Monday.

After Mayor Jeff Meyers updated the Council on his progress with the task force, Council member Dan Pflumm made a motion to approve another city's smoking ordinance. But having already told the public a task force would study the issue, most Council members voted against the ordinance.

The discussion began when Meyers told the Council he had selected 12 people to be on the task force, studying the desire in Shawnee for an ordinance prohibiting smoking in public places and the different options for the ordinance to include. Meyers said he was just waiting for confirmation from one of the members selected.

Council member Michelle Distler asked if the city should wait to move forward with the task force because of the current case before the Kansas Supreme Court concerning Lawrence's smoking ordinance. But the mayor, city manager and city attorney all cautioned the case could go on for months or years.

"My own opinion at this time would be to move forward with the task force," Meyers said. "... If something did come forward from the Supreme Court situation, we would have to make adjustments, but my belief is we should go ahead and proceed."

Carol Gonzales, city manager, said the city had taken bids from six companies to serve as a facilitator for the task force and had selected a company that would charge $3,500 for its total services.

Pflumm and Straub both said they didn't know why the city should spend money on a task force. Straub said several cities as well as the county had researched the issue, and all had chosen to have a smoking ordinance. But others said it was important to get the opinion of those in Shawnee.

"I would hope that that's what we're going to get, the citizen input of Shawnee, not the county or Overland Park," Council member Neal Sawyer said.

Council member Dawn Kuhn said she would also like to get feedback from cities who have enacted a smoking ban to see what has worked and what hasn't.

But Pflumm said he wanted the Council to take action. He brought out a copy of Overland Park's ordinance and made a motion to adopt it, saying it will not go into affect until Jan. 1, 2008, so the city could have time to repeal it if necessary. Straub seconded the motion.

Pflumm said he felt he had to bring it before the Council because the Council members hadn't stated their opinion on the matter yet by voting on an ordinance.

"Nobody wants to say what their opinion is on this thing right out in public," he said.

But Cheryl Scott said she thought it was too large of an issue to vote on without doing some homework first, and Kuhn and Sawyer agreed, saying they needed citizen input. Mickey Sandifer said he has always been against an ordinance based on the belief that the city shouldn't tell people how to run their businesses.

Though he seconded Pflumm's motion, Straub also expressed concern, saying he would like to look over the Overland Park ordinance and the Council should possibly postpone the vote until its next meeting.

"I think most people because they don't know what they're voting on will have to vote no, so let's give it two weeks," Straub said.

But Pflumm held firm, saying the Council had been talking about the issue for a long time, and he would like to see some action.

"Every time I want something on the agenda, it doesn't appear on the agenda unless I bring it like this," Pflumm said. "If we're going to vote on something in two weeks, I'll withdraw my motion; but if we aren't, let's go ahead and vote."

Meyers said he thought it was not wise to vote on an ordinance when the city has already told people it was going to study issue through task force.

"If council voted for this ban, continuation of having a task force would be something we wouldn't need to do," he said.

As a motion to table the issue until the next Council meeting never came about, the Council voted on Pflumm's original motion. The motion failed 5-2-1, with Pflumm and Straub voting in favor and Council member Frank Goode abstaining.

Meyers said once he received confirmation from the 12th task force member, he would announce the names of those on the task force. If the final member did not confirm, another would be selected from the six other volunteers who applied.

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