Council members did not approve the ordinance which would ban smoking in all public places in the city, including restaurants, bars, businesses and private clubs, however, they showed a willingness to vote on it -- with some changes -- next month. (Mark one for the anti-smoking team.)
The council also indicated a willingness to compromise with private clubs, allowing smoking under certain circumstances. (Chalk one up for the smokers.)
Council members talked about allowing smoking to take place inside private clubs during events that are open only to members. If approved, the ordinance would be like the one recently adopted by the city of Plainfield that allows smoking in private clubs as long as the event is closed to the general public.
This pleased officials with the private clubs, including the Moose Lodge's Tim Spurlock who said he would be willing to accept a smoking ban as long as it permitted smoking at member-only events.
It also gained acceptance of Councilman Bob Sedlack who is the one council member to push strongly for a total ban on smoking. He told fellow council members Tom Roach, Mark Hammer, John Lanie and Russ Evans that he would be willing to compromise with the private clubs.
"Since this is a public health issue, it ought to be dealt with sooner rather than later," Sedlack said at the outset of the meeting.
Even the most outspoken critic of the smoking ban, Councilman Roach showed a willingness to approve the ordinance with some changes -- mainly he believes smoking should be allowed in places where children under the age of 18 are not present.
Roach's suggestion garnered some interest from other council members who, at the outset, wondered if it might not be the perfect solution for bars and private clubs. They took note of the fact that no one under the age of 21 is supposed to enter a bar and few children frequent the private clubs in town, which would mean smoking would be allowed in those locations.
But the more they talked about it, their support seemed to dwindle. So too did the support of the anti-smoking coalition.
One member of the coalition, Tammy Gardner, went to the microphone and vehemently said the group would not accept Roach's compromise because while it protects children under the age of 18, it does not protect non-smoking adults.
Council members, including Hammer and Lanie, agreed, echoing concern for non-smoking workers at businesses where smoking would be allowed given the "under 18" clause of the ordinance.
In the end, council members consented to a variety of clarifications and minor changes to the ordinance as presented and asked the city attorney to draft a second, "cleaned up" version to be brought back to the council at a later date.
Mayor Nancy Michael suggested the council hold a special meeting later this month and continue refining the ordinance, to be followed by the first of two official votes at the council's regular monthly meeting in April.
If approved in April, the council would then vote a second and final time in May. If approved, the ordinance could potentially take effect on July 1.
Tuesday night's meeting marked the second time, and surely not the last, that council members entertained a discussion on the matter. Last month, a crowd composed of supporters and non-supporters of a smoking ban filled the council chambers to offer their opinions about the issue.
The same was true Tuesday night, but there was a greater sense of tension in the air than at last month's meeting.
While the main battle took place in the front of the room, several smaller skirmishes were ongoing in the audience as die-hard supporters of a smoking ban bickered back and forth with opponents. The scuffles were only verbal, but Mayor Michael had to interrupt the meeting several times to ask the audience to quiet down.
At the end of the lengthy discussion, Councilman Sedlack asked for a five-minute break (so council members could stretch their legs) before proceeding with the rest of the meeting.
Both sides of the ban vowed to rally more troops for the next council meeting.