3-3 vote means smoking ordinance remains intact

Bookert, Griffin, Albert for; Arrowood, Dumas, Bettis against

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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Councilwoman Judy Albert (District 6) fought for tobacco-free parks and playgrounds.

Councilwoman Judy Albert (District 6) fought for tobacco-free parks and playgrounds.

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Councilman Wryley Bettis (District 5) casts decisive vote to keep the ordinance intact.

Councilman Wryley Bettis (District 5) casts decisive vote to keep the ordinance intact.

Greer City Council, by virtual of a 3-3 vote this evening, defeated an amended ordinance proposed by councilwoman Judy Albert that would have made all parks and recreations facilities tobacco-free. 

Smoking is permitted in designated areas away from the playing fields at parks and recreation facilities and prohibited at city owned buildings and properties.

The dynamic of the Aug. 28 first reading saw a decided shift this evening and had Albert making a desperate motion to postpone the second reading vote to allow for a special hearing for public comment. A delay would also have allowed Mayor Rick Danner, who supported Albert’s ordinance in the first reading, to return to council from his economic trip to China and Japan. Wryley Bettis, absent from the last meeting, made the decisive no vote to tie the proposal, thus killing it.

Jay Arrowood, Lee Dumas and Bettis voted against the ordinance and Kimberly Bookert, Albert and Mayor Pro-Tem Wayne Griffin favored it. At the last council meeting the first reading had Griffith, Bookert, Albert and Danner in favor and Arrowood and Dumas opposed. Bettis was absent on Aug. 28.

“I think it would be fair for us to hear how our constituents feel about the smoking ordinance in public session,” Albert told council. Bettis countered, “I already know how my constituents feel because they have told me. The word has been out there two weeks.”

The public is routinely a no-show at council meetings. The most important meetings this year, with special hearings held for the public, were for redistricting and the 2012-2013 fiscal budget. No one appeared to speak for or against those measures.

Although the agenda for city council meetings are routinely posted on its website at 5 p.m. on Friday, there was no public attendance recorded at the first reading of the tobacco-free proposal. Amanda Somers, Director of the Board for Parks and Recreation, spoke this evening, suggesting the ordinance that was adopted in the past reflected the board’s support. “When it came before the board of trustees we felt the policy in place was sufficient,” Somers said. “We feel the ordinance as written would allow people to smoke closer to the fields.”

Albert said her reasoning to push the ordinance through was to eliminate the cigarette butts that are littered at the parks so children would not pick them up and put them in their mouths. She also said she has attended outdoor functions where smoke has filtered her way. Despite Albert’s passionate plea to modify the ordinance, no member from her district attended either of the past two council meetings.

The cost to the city to remove the smoking cylinders and add signage is $5,000, according to Administrator Ed Driggers.

The part of the ordinance that was most troubling included prohibiting smoking from within 25 feet of recreation parks and facilities. Had it passed that meant that businesses on Cannon and Poinsett streets could not allow smoking on their property within 25-feet of City Park and its facilities. Bettis said that his property is within 25 feet of City Stadium.

Albert tried to get the tobacco-free measure on the council agenda last year but did not have enough support for it to be brought to a vote and council suggested it to be revisited this year.

• Council passed, 6-0, an amendment to its posting of council’s agenda on Friday to coincide with a Circuit Court decision prohibiting changes unless under emergency conditions.

• Amended 6-0 on first reading to match the language of bylaws with the ordinances pertaining to Parks and Recreation and its affiliates and the city.

• This evening’s council meeting will go down as the shortest, by three minutes, of any held in the past, according to Tammy Duncan.

• Ed Driggers reported the Harvest Market had 250 visitors in the first of 10 Sundays for vendors and inspirational music.

• City employees will have their benefits symposium on Sept. 27 and receive flu shots.


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