A split city council passed a no smoking ordinance designed to make Meridian virtually smoke-free.
The ordinance would prohibit smoking in public places which are defined as banks, educational facilities, health care facilities, laundromats, public transportation facilities, reception areas, restaurants, retail food production and marketing establishments, retail service establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters and waiting rooms. The term restaurant includes an attached bar.
The city's attorney, Steven Kohnke, said he was disturbed by the way the council was handling the proposal.
"I would really recommend, strongly recommend, that the council either have a public hearing on this or have a work session on this to really look at this," said Kohnke.
The ordinance is broad. It called for people who went outside to smoke to be at least 25 feet from the building.
Ward 1 councilman, Dr. George Thomas, opposed the plan.
"I'm real concerned about the government taking away property rights," said Thomas. "If you own private property, you have a right in my opinion to decide whether or not you want to make it such that the public will come in to your private property."
At the meeting, interested parties were present, including students holding up signs, as well as Meridian resident Tom Maynor.
"I don't think you need a public hearing. I think you need to have some guts and vote on it," said Maynor.
They did and it passed 3-2, with Bobby Smith, Barbara Henson and Mary Perry in favor. Dr. George Thomas and Jesse Palmer were opposed.
"I've been working on it trying to get the council together to have a work session so the council could be informed," said Smith. "Nobody wanted to meet so I got enough of it and just decided to go ahead with it."
Mayor John Robert Smith is considering a veto. Four votes are needed to override the veto. If he does, both Thomas and Councilman Jesse Palmer say they will not vote to override. That would put the ball back in the Bobby Smith, Henson and Perry Court.