Broad Street smok­ing ban or­di­nance is on the move

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Diane Wag­ner DWag­[email protected]

An or­di­nance to ban smok­ing and va­p­ing on Broad Street — in­clud­ing in side­walk cafes — is headed to the Rome City Com­mis­sion.

Al­though there are still some de­tails to be ironed out, the city’s pub­lic safety com­mit­tee agreed last Tues­day, Nov. 20 on a rec­om­men­da­tion. The draft or­di­nance with a map and plans for sig­nage is ex­pected to be pre­sented in early De­cem­ber.

“Take that to the Com­mis­sion and we’ll hash it out there,” said City Com­mis­sioner Mil­ton Slack, one of three elected of­fi­cials on the com­mit­tee.

The rec­om­men­da­tion falls short of the ini­tial pro­posal from Breath­easy Rome, a coali­tion of lo­cal health­care or­ga­ni­za­tions, but a rep­re­sen­ta­tive called it a good first step. The group ini­tially wanted to in­clude the city’s en­tire cen­tral busi­ness district and all shop­ping malls, park­ing decks, out­door events, play­grounds and driv­ethrough ser­vice lines.

In­stead, the or­di­nance drafted by City At­tor­ney Andy Davis cre­ates a Broad Street District stretch­ing be­tween East First and East Eighth av­enues. Smok­ing would be pro­hib­ited on all pub­lic prop­erty along Broad and down the side streets and al­ley­ways one block deep.

The Town Green, Third Av­enue Park­ing Deck and Bridge­point Plaza are ad­di­tion­ally named as smoke-free zones.

Busi­ness own­ers and man­agers would be re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing their em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers com­ply, or for call­ing po­lice if they refuse. The or­di­nance em­pow­ers them and the po­ten­tial fines give them an in­cen­tive, Breath­easy Rome spokes­woman Gena Agnew said.

Com­mis­sioner Craig McDaniel, who chairs the pub­lic safety com­mit­tee, said board mem­bers have in­di­cated in in­for­mal talks that the buy-in from mer­chants is im­por­tant.

“No­body wants to ap­prove an or­di­nance that we can’t en­force. We’ve got one now,” he said, re­fer­ring to a pro­hi­bi­tion against smok­ing within 25 feet of a build­ing en­trance.

“The devil is still very much in the de­tails, but it will take a com­mit­ment from store own­ers, busi­ness own­ers,” he said.

Smok­ers could be fined $50 for the first of­fense, and up to $250 for re­peat of­fenses. Busi­ness own­ers who turn a blind eye could be hit with penal­ties rang­ing from $100 to $500.

Call­ing po­lice should be a last re­sort, com­mit­tee mem­bers said.

When asked to weigh in, Po­lice Chief Denise Downer-McKin­ney said she is per­son­ally of­fended by smoke “but cog­nizant of what other peo­ple want to do with their lives.” She noted that any calls would nec­es­sar­ily be a low pri­or­ity and re­it­er­ated Po­lice Maj. Rod­ney Bai­ley’s warn­ing that the ban would send bar smok­ers to con­gre­gate in dark al­leys.

“You’re push­ing all your po­ten­tial for vi­o­lence, for fights, to the back street area,” Downer-McKin­ney said.

Ref­er­ences to des­ig­nated smok­ing ar­eas were re­moved from the draft or­di­nance, partly due to en­force­ment is­sues and partly be­cause the Down­town De­vel­op­ment Author­ity could not agree on spe­cific sites. The City Com­mis­sion must hold two read­ings be­fore it is adopted and it would not go into ef­fect un­til sig­nage is posted.

“Ten per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion smokes,” said DDA Chair Bob Blum­berg, owner of Johnny’s Pizza and The Sea­sons. “Put that against fam­i­lies that stay off Broad Street be­cause of the smoke. As a busi­ness owner, I feel con­fi­dent I’m not go­ing to lose any­thing.”

The U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey says a 2.7-mag­ni­tude quake was re­ported Fri­day about seven miles west of Cal­houn, in north­west Ge­or­gia.

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