By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
It turns out the city will welcome public input on the proposed smoking ban – just not yet.
In its first meeting since the City Council pulled the smoking ordinance from the agenda at the last moment on Nov. 25, the committee in charge of evaluating the proposal is in disagreement as to how to proceed.
There was some discussion that the old ordinance may be satisfactory after all, and others spoke of even passing the ordinance next month, then allowing the public to vote on it in May.
Councilman and smoking ordinance committee member Juan Rivera said they had rushed to get the measure passed before they fully knew the feelings of the people. So, he asked why the council is proceeding without giving those same people a chance to bring those issues to the council.
"We did this thing before in three minutes, and probably went too fast," Rivera said Tuesday. "We need to regroup and figure out where we went wrong."
These statements by Rivera came following an evaluation of several minor changes to the ordinance from City Attorney Kathy Davis, who admitted that the revised form is really not much different right now than the old one.
Rivera advocated that the public weigh in before the committee chooses to make any substantive changes.
The committee set two public hearing dates for next month: Thursday, Jan. 8, and Wednesday, Jan. 14, both at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.
The smoking committee will meet after the public hearings, at 3 p.m. Jan. 20, and make further changes at that time.
The council indicated that there will be a three-month delay before the ban becomes active. As written, the revised ordinance would make it unlawful to smoke in the following areas:
Most enclosed public places, such as restaurants, lobbies, bars, pool halls, dance clubs and bowling alleys. The only exceptions to these rules are outdoor patios either screened or not fully enclosed.
Within 25 feet of an entrance, window or vent of an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.
Outdoor public venues, such as seating areas and bleachers at parades, sporting events, and in playgrounds and inside fenced areas of public pools as well as the outdoor patio area at Stonetree Golf Clubhouse.
Exceptions include the following:
Private residences, except those which host a day care.
Designated smoking rooms at hotels.
Retail tobacco stores.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.