By Karen Daniels
Although no decision was made last Wednesday night at the Civic Center, it was an interesting evening as people shared their concerns–some with statistics, some with personal stories–on whether or not Stafford should ban smoking in public places. Before they began, City Council and the Mayor stated that public health, the rights of individual property owners, and safety for workers was everyone’s concern. The Mayor added, “At the outset I stipulate and believe smoking is an insidious habit. Likewise second-hand smoke” however it would be “grossly inaccurate and naive to think that a smoking ban would not have an economic impact” on Stafford.
Each individual was given four minutes to speak, and while they could, Council heard alternating viewpoints for and against the issue, until those in favor of a ban outnumbered those against. Of the six against a ban, all were business owners and/or residents of Stafford. Of the 14 in favor of a ban, only half lived in Stafford. Health concerns and air quality were the points made for the ban and loss of business and government intrusion were points made against. The Council seemed open to what everyone had to say. Where they stood on the issue, however, was hinted at during their closing statements.
Felecia Evans-Smith-Is for an ordinance, especially in restaurants. In other meetings she has made a distinction between restaurants and bars.
Wen Guerra-Wants smoking out of restaurants. He went on record stating those who serve 75% or more of food. Interesting note: as a kid, his father owned 8 bars.
Fred Woolridge-Hasn’t made a stand. He commended everyone for showing up.
Ken Matthews-Hasn’t made a stand, but seems concerned about the business owners.
Robert Sorbet-Besides the Mayor, asked the most questions of the speakers. Is interested in further discussions on parameters of a ban.
Cecil Willis-Wants decisions for ban to be based on logic, not emotion. Does not want an intrusive government.
Mayor Scarcella-His concern is for residents and business owners of Stafford-only. Feels businesses have enough zoning ordinances to deal with. Mentioned outrage amongst Americans right now for laws being forced onto them.
A lot of the focus of an ordinance seems to be on restaurants. The owner of Case Ole (who is in favor of a smoking ban) indicated that they polled 50 diners in their smoking section asking if they would continue to eat there if they could no longer smoke. One hundred percent said no. He has a second restaurant in Houston where smoking is banned. During the first month sales dropped 5%; 90 days later sales were even; six months later sales were up 20%. Although each business owner has the power to ban smoking on their property, a smoking ban would level the playing field. In contrast though, Mayor Scarcella said he visited a lot of owners and managers of bars and restaurants in the Stafford area and reported that they “wish to do business as it is now.”
This topic is far from over. Next week’s article will cover a more in-depth look at what the citizens had to say about how a smoking ban would effect them; personally and professionally.