At least for the next year, smokers in Forest Park may continue lighting up at their favorite bars and restaurants, thanks to a split vote of the village council on Monday.
While staring down a much more restrictive county ordinance set to take effect on March 31, commissioners voted 3-2 to adopt a local smoking ordinance that mirrors the state law. However, because legislators are considering a statewide ban, Mayor Anthony Calderone asked for a sunset provision to be included in the village’s ordinance. Forest Park’s new smoking ordinance will expire at the end of 2007.
“If the state is going to act on a statewide ban…then any action we would take would be moot,” Calderone said.
If the state fails to approve tighter regulations the village has the option of hosting public hearings on the topic in 2008, Calderone said. Going through that process prior to the state’s vote makes little sense, he said.
The mayor described the village’s action as a “wait and see” approach.
Prior to the council’s vote on Jan. 22, the community did not have a local ordinance. Smoking was regulated by the state law and any fines levied were shared by local and state government. According to Village Administrator Mike Sturino, adopting the state law in the form of a municipal ordinance allows the village to collect that revenue.
Current state law expressly allows for smoking in bowling alleys and taverns. A proposal from lawmakers earlier this month attempts to ban smoking in those venues and would take affect on Jan. 1, 2008.
At the onset of Monday’s discussion, Commissioner Patrick Doolin quickly moved to adopt the Cook County ordinance as the village’s own. That proposal would have prohibited smoking in traditional havens such as bars and bowling alleys. His motion was seconded by Commissioner Theresa Steinbach, and with no discussion from the council, defeated in a 2-3 vote.
Doolin argued the issue of smoking bans has little to do with economics and should be considered a matter of public health. In speaking against the mayor’s ordinance, Doolin said the village is simply punting the issue back to the state in lieu of making a tough decision.
“I don’t think that’s right,” Doolin said.
Commissioner Tim Gillian, however, lauded Calderone’s proposal for that very reason. Had the village adopted a more restrictive ban, commissioners would alienate a large number of constituents on either side, Gillian said.
“This seems like a reasonable step to take,” Gillian said. “We’re not doing anything. We’re letting the state decide.”