Smoking Committee Snuffed

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Meridian City Council president Bobby Smith told his colleagues at a work session Wednesday that he wanted to know how they felt on a proposed Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. He said he is 100 percent for such a referendum.

"I would like to see us form a new committee," said Ward 3 councilwoman Barbara Henson, who chaired the committee that drafted the original proposal, "and let the committee come up with a suggestion for, even if it's a referendum, another suggestion and not go with what we've got now. I favor a referendum, but when you have a referendum you've got to have a document so the people will know what they're voting on."

Councilman Dr. George Thomas of Ward 1, who has opposed the smoking ordinance, agreed.

"Someone's going to write very, very clear what it means," said Thomas. "Five feet; seven feet; nine feet; 10 feet; window open; window closed; this ventilation; that ventilation; filtered cigarettes; non-filtered; it's just got to be clear."

Councilman Smith pushed one last time for a binding referendum but ran into a stone wall in Thomas.

"If we start a new committee and I appoint 11 or 12 new members, totally new members, the others couldn't be part of it whatsoever," said Smith. "There wouldn't be a council member on that. Would you, the council, agree to whatever these 12 people write in the ordinance?"

"No. That's what I'm elected to do is make that call," Thomas said.

That ended the discussion, particularly after city attorney Steve Kohnke, told the council that the proposed binding public vote would not be legal. In effect, the council put off the decision until another still undetermined day.