Shaker council rejects open-air smoking ban
City Council last night stopped short of making Shaker Heights the state's first community to ban smoking outdoors in some public places.
"This is a civil rights issue," council member Kenneth J. Kovach said. "I think this is a case where Shaker Heights shouldn't take the lead."
Council members heeded Kovach's advice, voting 4-2 against the ordinance that would have amended the community's law that already prohibits smoking in public indoor facilities, including grocery stores, libraries and museums.
The ordinance that council did not pass would have banned smoking at city and school ball fields and playgrounds, gathering places like the Colonnade and outdoor concession areas like the food stand at Thornton Park.
Council did, however, pass an ordinance requiring tobacco vendors to get a license from the city.
Council member Allen Foster, who voted against the outdoor smoking ban, said he agreed with the intent of the ordinance.
"While I agree with the intent of this legislation, I don't agree with its implementation," Foster said. "What are we going to do next, legislate seat belts on toilet seats in Shaker Heights? Where does it end?"
Smoking opponents were disappointed with the council's decision to not ban smoking in some public places. Gary DeNelsky, Cuyahoga Tobacco Control Coalition chairman, was not happy.
"I'm really disappointed," he said. "I think Shaker had a chance to take a stance. But I think they dropped the ball. I'm glad they passed the vendor's licensing."
Shaker's ordinance for smoking in public places would have picked up where a new state law leaves off. It prohibits Ohio children from using, buying and possessing tobacco products.
Under Shaker's proposed ordinance adults would have been guilty of a minor misdemeanor with fines up to $100, if they smoked in prohibited areas.
Shaker resident April E. Sutton thought the ordinance would have gone too far. She said she talked with at least 20 people in her neighborhood who opposed it.
"This ordinance is simple intolerance," she told council. "Intolerance for something that is legal for an adult to do. This legislation will only legalize this harassment of smokers and will intensify the lack of respect children show their elders."
Council member Jan M. Devereaux offered a compromise. "I'd rather see us start with a voluntary compliance," she said.
Mayor Judith Rawson said the city would look into voluntary compliance with signs asking people not to smoke in areas that would have prohibited smoking if the ban had passed.
Earl M. Leiken and Brian Parker voted for the ban last night. Voting against, in addition to Foster, were Brian Gleisser, Devereaux and Kovach.
Council member Stephanie Turner was absent.