City council expected to vote on smoking ban Tuesday

Photo by Todd Gill
Bar owner Mark Wright speaks at a recent Fayetteville City Council discussion of a proposed smoking ban for all bars in town. Wright owns On The Mark located in Whistle Stop Plaza at 2588 N. Gregg Avenue in Fayetteville.

Update: (6/7/11) The proposed smoking ban failed to receive the necessary six votes to pass.

After weeks of intense debate, the Fayetteville City Council is expected to vote on a proposed amendment that would ban smoking in all Fayetteville bars at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

Public comment has been largely split on the controversial issue, which in essence comes down to these two (extremely oversimplified) camps: 1) Those who feel that smoking in bars is a public health issue and should be regulated to protect patrons and bar employees from secondhand smoke, and 2) Those who feel that adult patrons, business owners, and bar employees should have the right to choose for themselves whether or not to accept the risk to enter an establishment that allows smoking.

We’ve attended all of the meetings so far, and here’s how we think the vote will go down tonight.

Council leanings / Our guesses

If the ban is to pass, it will need six “Yes” votes out of a possible eight. Here’s what we know about each council member’s leanings and how we guess they’ll vote. Keep in mind, what you’re about to read is a mixture of factual quotes and total speculation. Some of our guesses are based on very little evidence. Some are total coin tosses.

Adella Gray, Ward 1 – Adella is the sponsor of this ordinance and seems very passionate about seeing it pass. “It is our responsibility to take some action,” she told the council. In other words, it’s highly unlikely that she’ll vote against it. Our guess: Yes
Brenda Thiel, Ward 1 – “We’ve heard some very good points,” said Thiel at the first meeting. “I think we need time to think about them.” That’s all we’ve got from Brenda, but she did vote in favor of the current ban, so there’s that. Our guess: Yes
Mark Kinion, Ward 2 – During the first meeting, Mark said he was struggling with the issue. “On a personal basis, I would like to see Fayetteville as a leader in protecting public health, but I also think that Fayetteville is known for having the opportunity for people to be well educated and make a choice.” This one’s tough, because we believe Mark is sincere in saying he’s undecided. Our guess: No
Matthew Petty, Ward 2 – Matthew is the co-sponsor of the ordinance and like Adella, he also seems very passionate about seeing it pass. “The danger that an indoor smoker poses to those around him or her is exceptional,” said Petty at the second meeting. “And I’m going to stick with the word ‘exceptional’.” Our guess: Yes
Justin Tennant, Ward 3 – Justin is the hardest to read, but he did ask Crown Pub owner Wade Ogle why he voluntarily made the decision to turn his bar into a non-smoking establishment. After Ogle explained that his non-smoking clientele was starting to outweigh the smokers, Tennant said, “So would it be fair to say that you let the market decide?” Ogle answered, “Yes.” Our guess: No
Bobby Ferrell, Ward 3 – Bobby also made a few references to letting the market decide. He’s made no specific mention of being for or against the ordinance, but his tendency to side with business owners coupled with his repeated questioning of those in favor of the ban make it seem as though he’s leaning towards a ‘no’ vote. Our guess: No
Rhonda Adams, Ward 4 – Rhonda hasn’t stated her opinion, but after a few bar owners said they didn’t think their patrons needed any protection, Adams asked some interesting questions. For example, she asked a Springdale bar owner whether or not he provided bouncers to protect his patrons. The implication, as it appears to us, is that she believes it is a bar owner’s responsibility to protect their patrons, and that responsibility extends to harmful secondhand smoke as well. Our guess: Yes
Sarah Lewis, Ward 4 – “This is an important topic that needs to be addressed,” said Lewis. “I think it’s an economic as well as a health issue.” Sarah hasn’t openly shown her cards on this issue, so this one’s an absolute coin toss. Our guess: Yes.

Bold prediction

A lot of folks we’ve talked to think that the passing of an amendment like this is inevitable. That may be the case, but after adding up our guess totals for tonight’s decision, we’re seeing three possible “no” votes. Since this ordinance requires six votes to pass, we’re predicting it will be one short.

Care to weigh in?