By Matthew Jackonen, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 21, 2014
A smoke-free Ann Arbor is finally here — or at least one more free of smoke.
The Ann Arbor City Council passed the long-debated smoking ordinance Monday night by a vote of 9-2 with only Councilmembers Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) and Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) voting against the ordinance.
The ordinance now makes smoking near bus stops and within 20 feet of city buildings a civil infraction.
Though the first draft of the ordinance contained wording that also made smoking within 20 feet of bus stops illegal, a late amendment by ordinance sponsor Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) reduced the distance to 10 feet from bus stops. Warpehoski said after speaking with AAATA officials, it was agreed that a 20-foot buffer might prevent bus drivers from seeing smokers who are also waiting for buses.
The ordinance will also prohibit smoking in certain areas of Ann Arbor parks at the discretion of the city administrator.
Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) proposed an amendment to decrease the fine for ignoring any warning from a police officer to cease smoking in prohibited areas from $50 to $25.
“Fifty dollars may be disparate to some of the (citizens) that may be most likely to receive the fine,” Kunselman said.
He added that the fine for smoking a cigarette should not be higher than the fine for smoking marijuana, as smoking a cigarette is actually legal. There is now also an option for completing community service in lieu of a fine.
Notably, all four of the city councilmembers running for mayor this fall voted in favor of the ordinance. Before Monday night, only Kunselman still felt strongly enough about his reservations to vote against the proposal.
However, Kunselman said the lower fine along with the assurances of the “self-enforcing” nature of the ordinance from the variety of health officials at the last council meeting caused him to change his mind.
The loudest criticisms came from Lumm, who still held doubts about the enforcement issue. She said any type of enforcement would be a waste of police officers’ time and noted that the claims of self-enforcement warrant the conclusion that an ordinance is unnecessary.
“If it’s self-enforcing, why have it with any fines at all?” Lumm said. “If the … incidents are so rare, doesn’t that suggest the problem is a minor one and not one requiring an ordinance to deal with it?”
Lumm added that council should not “punt” the decision of which parks to make smoke-free to the city administrator since it is a “big deal” for many citizens.
Eaton echoed Lumm’s distaste for the ordinance by calling for educational reform rather than making smoking a civil infraction.
“We are going to devote our police resources to enforcing what is primarily a public health question,” Eaton said. “Public health questions are better addressed through education, which is demonstrated in the population that (primarily) still smokes: the uneducated and poor. We need to educate them.”
Eaton also agreed that the ordinance is “too broad in scope,” and expressed his concern with the disparate impact on the poor — whom he noted also primarily ride the bus.
Councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) said the ordinance is primarily intended to allow non-smokers to create social norms that ultimately educate smokers and could prevent others from taking up smoking.
“It is not a tremendous burden on people,” Taylor said. “It also, nevertheless, provides non-smokers with the tools to help educate smokers in these areas as to what is appropriate in public space and what is not.”
Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1) also spoke in favor of the resolution, and said that it simply “promotes civility” between smokers and non-smokers by allowing for more harmony through understanding.
Jeff Hayner, an Ann Arbor resident and previous candidate for the open Ward 1 city council seat in 2013, said the City Council should consider adding a gum-chewing ban to the smoking ordinance due to the larger amount of used-gum litter versus cigarette butts.
Besides the vote and discussion over the ordinance at the meeting, City Administrator Steve Powers presented the annual budget recommendations for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year at the start of the meeting.
Powers recommended the city spend $98.1 million with $95.3 million coming from revenues and the $2.8 million difference from the unassigned general fund. However, the recurring expenditures match the recurring revenues.
Notable additions to the budget include recommendations to hire three more police officers, another firefighter and an additional rental-housing inspector for tenant safety.