Congratulations Carlsbad!

[For additional history, see Carlsbad Considers]
On Tuesday evening (July 25th, 2000), the City Council of Carlsbad, New Mexico, passed a smokefree air ordinance in workplaces and public places-including restaurants-by a vote of 5 to 3.

Congratulations to all Carlsbad Taskforce for Clean Indoor Air members including Meg Mullilgan, Jane Frost, Jackie Hadzic, Mark Sanford; to Lisa McNichol, the American Heart Association, Americans for Nonsmoker's Rights and all the folks who took the time to call their councilors, ask their friends and family to attend the hearing, the youth who testified and to Councilor Dan Funchess for successfully keeping the ordinance intact. It was a hardwon battle. Keep up the great work!! A news article about the vote follows below.

McGuire Casts Vote to Break Potential Deadlock

By Kyle Marksteiner
Current-Argus Staff Writer
July 26, 2000

CARLSBAD - With the eyes of the town upon her, City Councilwoman Renee McGuire cast the deciding vote Tuesday night, allowing the Carlsbad City Council to pass, 5-3, an ordinance prohibiting smoking in work and public places.

Throughout two hours of sometimes heated, often passionate testimony from supporters and opponents of the ordinance, seven councilors made comments indicating where they stood. Four were in favor of the ordinance and three were against. McGuire, on the other hand, remained mostly quiet, speaking occasionally to ask a question.

Moments before the vote, McGuire revealed her hand. "This is a very hard and difficult issue," she said. "The government needs to make rules to protect and enhance our community. I'm a mom and also an educator and as an educator and a mom I have to protect our children."

Moments later, the ordinance passed, with councilors Manny Anaya, Chuck Wiggins and Paul Aguilar voting against. A tie vote would have required Mayor Gary Perkowski to cast the deciding vote. After the meeting, Perkowski said he would have voted for the ordinance.

Carlsbad joins only Santa Fe and Las Cruces as New Mexican cities with smoking bans.

The council addressed the ordinance in front of about 135 people, most of whom were unable to fit into the council chamber and listened from an adjacent room. Councilman Bob Murray, an outspoken supporter of the smoking ban, made the initial motion to pass the ordinance. After a second by Dan Funchess, Mayor Pro Tem Wiggins, stated his reason for opposing the ordinance.

"My opposition has to do with personal rights and property rights," he said. "I have a problem as an elected official passing an ordinance knowing it is going to be a problem for local businesses."

Before the ordinance came to a vote, the council rejected two proposed amendments. Wiggins suggested the council delete a clause in the ordinance that would allow exemptions to be granted to businesses that suffer hardships as a result of the new law. He said a similar clause was found constitutional in Arizona and could cause Carlsbad legal trouble. The motion for the amendment failed 6-2, with Wiggins and Aguilar voting in favor.

"Why would he take out the only part of the ordinance that would protect businesses?" Councilman Dan Funchess asked. "It might be a ploy, or maybe he is concerned."

Aguilar then made a motion for another amendment that would have exempted bingo parlors from the ordinance. "The bingo halls are going to be caused hardship," he said. That motion failed 5-3, with McGuire pausing before casting the deciding vote. Once the amendment failed, Aguilar seemed committed to voting against the ordinance.

When Mayor Perkowski finally called for the vote on the ordinance, Councilman Jimmie Cisneros gave a plea. "All the rules and regulations have been there to protect the smokers," he said. "There has been very little to protect the non-smokers."

The members of the public in favor of the ordinance, most of them involved in the Carlsbad Task Force for Clean Indoor Air that helped write the ordinance, arrived at the meeting earlier than their opponents and were better prepared. They brought with them banners and stickers and had doctors and nurses give factual testimony to the council. A group of teen-agers were also called in to speak to the council on behalf of Carlsbad's youth. The Task Force had a flavor of the civic group Carlsbad First! with activists Mark Sanford and Meg Milligan beginning and ending the presentation to the council.

Most members of the group opposed to passing the ordinance arrived later, and were not able to sit in the council chamber. The group consisted of a motley mixture of business owners, charity groups and a few patriots. Many made up for their lack of research with passionate speeches.

Mayor ProTem Wiggins seemed to orchestrate the opposition, often reminding members of the public about information they had forgotten to state to the council.

Councilman Jimmie Cisneros quickly displayed his support of the ordinance by routinely asking members of the public if they had considered the rights of the non-smoker.

Both sides addressed the two issues sacred to any town, economic development and children.The group opposed to the ordinance said Carlsbad's various charities that raise money through bingo would suffer.

Tanya Templeton Depew, reading from a prepared statement on behalf of several bingo groups, said a high percentage of bingo players are smokers. "These bingo organizations are able to channel money back into community projects," she read. "This would not only hurt the organizations but the projects."

Juanita Gomez, a representative of Carlsbad's Boys and Girls Club, said she didn't think the organization's bingo events would be able to accommodate all the smokers as required by the law. The ordinance allows for 33 percent of a bingo facility be made into an isolated smoking facility. If smokers stopped playing bingo, the Boys and Girls Club might have to cut some of its projects, she said. "I don't think we'd be able to put in all our smokers," she said. Jim Boutelle, who spoke on behalf of the Elks Lodge, also said he thought the group's charity drives might suffer.

One man said he was a Vietnam veteran who fought for civil rights. Several others said they didn't think it was the government's right to take away freedom.

But most of the argument against the proposal centered on the idea that it could hurt economic development. Kent Frank, who runs Sidekicks restaurant, said the decision should be up to the individual and to the business, not government. "A person who pays their dollars for a meal ought to have a right to do what they want to," he said.

A number of other businessmen echoed Frank's statements. Several said they have recently spent thousands of dollars to install devices to ventilate smoke. Restaurant owner Charlie Beaver, gesturing angrily with his cowboy hat, predicted that passing the ordinance would have a negative impact on every business in town.

John Lane, manager for Jerry's Restaurant in Carlsbad, said he'd seen businesses in California hurt by similar ordinances. "We talk about wanting economic development," he said. "I don't think we are helping matters." Wiggins, later in the council meeting, displayed several newspaper articles about bars in California that had closed down because of an ordinance there that prohibits smoking in bars.

Local restaurateur Lucy Yanez was one of the last to speak against the proposal. "I'll be dammed if I'm going to be proud of this council," she said.

Local attorney Mark Sanford gave the first statement in favor of the proposal. Sanford said a number of surveys indicated that most of Carlsbad was in favor of such a ban. He compared letting smokers into restaurants to letting someone with an infectious disease into a restaurant. "Some people around will get sick and some won't andsome of them are going to get so sick they die," he said. "The same thing happens when a smoker comes into a room."

Ron Hyden said he thought it was time Carlsbad became progressive. "For once I'd like to see Carlsbad lead instead of follow," he said. Physicians and nurses in the audience told the council studies show that children are healthier when not subjected to second-hand smoke. One woman brought her three children before the council and said she made her decision to support the ordinance with them in mind. Another woman said she'd dealt with a number of young children who had horrible sinus problems because of smoking.

Members of the group in support of the ordinance also had evidence indicating that such a ban doesn't cause economic problems. They cited statistics indicating that most restaurants and communities didn't suffer at all. One woman even told the council that she stopped playing bingo because of cigarette smoke.

John Redman reminded the council that the government does intervene on behalf of the public. "Many years ago we had sweatshops for children," he said. "We had slaves and the government interfered with that."

Dianne Whetsel, a local medical technician, wheeled in an oxygen tank to the council meeting. "They have been here asking for this ordinance because we don't want this to be in their future," she said. "The death of someone (from emphysema) is something you'll never forget."

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