Tougher Indoor Smoking Ban Defeated by Voters in Sitka, Alaska

I am proud to say that the voters in Sitka, Alaska soundly rejected a tougher smoking law (1,435 against the ordinance and only 1,008 for it), that would have banned smoking in two bars and two private clubs. It wouldn’t be a big deal, except these were the last four indoor spots where people could gather indoors and smoke, with the exception of private homes. None of the workers in these four establishments complained about smoking – most actually smoked themselves!

FYI – There are more than 16 “smoke-free” places  (some of them grill meat and light candles)  where you can drink (and, in a few,  eat!).

The group pushing for the tougher law had tried to ram it through the city council without a vote, but the smoking public turned out and demanded that the assumption that “most people support clean air” did not mean the people should not have a voice in the matter.

I am “a” or maybe even “the” designated smoker in our small (9,000 people) and isolated (air or water access only) Alaskan town and have been speaking out publicly and being quoted by the local media for the last 7 years. This go-round, I preached a message of tolerance that I think that played some part in the defeat of the ban.

The electorate also tacked to the Conservative side in the city council races and in defeating city funding of a somewhat ramshackle public Wellness Center and pool, which was offered for a fire-sale price by a bankrupt college. Many of the people who supported funding the Wellness Center also supported the tougher smoking ban and vice versa.

I was telling everybody that our local election was the national mid-term election “writ small.” We’ll see on that.

Anyhow, good news from the edges of the Empire and here the “horse’s mouth”:

http://krbd.org/modules/local_news/index.php?op=sideBlock&syndicated=true&ID=1444

Partial transcript of audio story:

SITKA, ALASKA (2010-10-06) Voters in Sitka soundly defeated a ballot proposal to forbid smoking in bars and private clubs, as well as three measures that would have kept Sitka’s community recreation center open. But voters DID give their support to major renovations at two schools in the city.

First, smoking. Sitka’s existing ordinances ban smoking in places of employment. This measure would have extended the ban to bars and private clubs. There are four places in Sitka that currently allow smoking: the Moose Lodge, the American Legion, Ernie’s Old Time Saloon and the Pioneer Bar.

They will continue to allow smoking into the foreseeable future.  The measure failed, 59 to 41 percent.

Further down the ballot, a series of three questions would have allowed the city to buy and fix up the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center. Those questions failed as well, by the same or wider margins than the smoking question.

If the proposals to buy the rec center had passed, the city would have issued up to $6 million dollars in bonds and raised the property tax rate by a half-mill in order to pay for the bonds. The likely scenario now that the measure has failed is that Hames could close its doors when the city’s current lease on the building expires at the end of the month.

Hames sits on the former campus of Sheldon Jackson College, and has about 1,100 members. It also was home base to Sitka’s Community Schools program.

The school district fared better than Hames in the polls, with voters overwhelmingly approving repairs to Blatchley Middle School and renovations at Pacific High School.

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