As the debate continues to smolder over a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in most public places, City Council candidates offered differing views on whether they would support a ban.
The draft ordinance, which has been the subject of debate and a recent public hearing by the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health, is subject to final review by the council and almost certainly will receive some sort of vote within the next year. Candidates in the two council races that will be filled in Tuesday’s election, said the debate centers around issues of fairness and the impact on business.
In its current form, the proposed ordinance would ban smoking in bars and restaurants, bingo halls, bowling alleys, and in the seating areas of athletic fields and arenas. Smoking would be allowed in private offices not visited by the public but only if separate ventilation systems used.
“I don’t think I would vote in favor of it,” said Chris Janku, the Second Ward incumbent who is seeking a sixth three-year term. “It doesn’t treat those people who want to smoke very fairly.”
Janku said he hopes to see continued community discussion. “I really hope that the community continues to discuss this issue so some sort of compromise can be reached,” he said.
Janku also worries some smokers might go outside city limits to businesses that allow smoking.
Brian Toohey, Janku’s opponent, said he supports a smoking ban but would like to mitigate any negative impact on Columbia businesses.
“I like the idea behind the ordinance,” Toohey said, but “I worry that unless it’s implemented on a larger scale we’re going to have businesses that do allow smoking popping up in the county just outside the city limits.”
Sixth Ward candidate Valerie Barnes said she would vote against the ordinance because it would be difficult to enforce and because those who do not smoke already have options.
“I don’t think it’s within the power of the council to make such a decision that limits people’s choices,” Barnes said. “Also, it’s a question of what can be done to enforce it. Are we going to have people going around to bars at 11 o’clock each night monitoring compliance?”
Barbara Hoppe, who is running against Barnes, said she has had no chance to examine the proposal to see how it compares to the one already in place.
“I still need to absorb what is prohibited right now and then look at what changes are being proposed,” Hoppe said. “I’d also like to have the chance to read about how it’s working in other communities where it’s been put into place. Until I do that, then I can’t say how I would vote on the matter.”