Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The city council in Fayetteville, Arkansas voted late Tuesday night on an amendment to a non-smoking ordinance that would eliminate smoking in all bars across the city.

The vote was 5 to 3 in favor.  But because the original ordinance was passed by voters, the amendment required a super majority vote of 6 in favor to pass the amendment, which means it failed to pass the council.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan could not vote on the issue, but said publicly that he would have supported passing the ordinance.

"When I realized I would not be able to vote on this I was relieved," Jordan said. "And I want to apologize to the Council for that. An elected official should never be relieved of his or her duty to vote."

Jordan went on to take a public stance on the issue, saying he would have voted for this amendment.

The three council members who voted against the amendment all cited the main reason behind their no votes as being that of not wishing to legislate the choices of adults.
"I am uncomfortable with the idea of governing an ability to choose (by adults)," one said.

Several arguments were made during the public comment portion, which lasted four hours before the Council, about the need to protect individuals from secondhand smoke.

Alderwoman Adella Gray cited the need to protect employees and insure a healthy work environment for those in bars as the city has done in restaurants.

"The employees who work in bars and the entertainers who play at bars deserve that same protection to have a healthy, clean air work environment," she said.

"For me, I've heard a lot about freedom and choice," Alderwoman Lewis said. "But when someone's choice impacts another person, that's when the government is obliged to step in. And I also have a problem with the fact that smoking bars limit the job pool for some people who have asthma, who are pregnant, who have MS. When there are bars that allow smoking, that eliminates some choices for those people for employment."

But member Mark Kinion said he had visited many of the smoking bars in Fayetteville within his ward, speaking to employees without them realizing he was a council member.

"The majority of them did not want this amendment to pass," Kinion said. "In fact, they were emphatic about their being aware of the smoking environment and choosing to work there."
"It would be great if everyone could go everywhere they wanted to go, do whatever they wanted to do all the time," Tennant said. "It would be great if everyone got a blue ribbon for showing up, but that is just not reality."

"There are only a few sanctuary bars that still allow smoking," Ferrell said as an admitted smoker who frequents those bars. "But these bars are minding their own business. There are plenty of other options for non-smokers. I don't see the need for us to legislate choice."

Proponents of the amendment, talking after the meeting, said they do plan to gather petition signatures to put the matter to a public vote.

The original non-smoking ordinance that would have been amended was passed by the City Council in 2003 and eliminated smoking from all work places, excluding bars and tobacco shops.