Aldermen mull smoking ban for restaurants

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008

Brookhaven smokers may have snuffed their last butts in localrestaurants if one alderman has his way.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell asked the board of aldermenagain Tuesday night to push for a smoking ban at least in therestaurants.

“I’d like for us to do a resolution that we’re going to moveforward on this,” he told the board.

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Like last time Maxwell brought up the smoking ban, Ward SixAlderman Buddy Allen was not present at the meeting.

Allen, who has missed some meetings due to illness, has taken astrong pro-smoking stance during previous discussions. He has saidhe thinks it is unconstitutional to legislate the way people treattheir own bodies.

The board had previously approved a voluntary resolutionrequesting local businesses to ask their customers not tosmoke.

In addition, during the last meeting when a smoking ban wasdiscussed again, the idea of smoking rooms with differentventilation systems was brought up. For example, The Grid IronGrill on Union Street Extension has such a room with separateventilation for smokers.

On a suggestion from Mayor Bob Massengill, the board set up awork session to discuss the possibilities of such a ban inrestaurants and public buildings. The board agreed on a March 6lunch meeting to go over the details and discuss the pluses andminuses.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said from his research, the no-smokingordinances he’s found that have been successful are ones thatbanned smoking in restaurants.

Government buildings are already smoke-free.

In other board proceedings, Massengill passed out volunteerinterest forms for the Bethel Park Project to the board,encouraging them to fill them out.

“They have said in no uncertain terms that if we do not have thevolunteers they won’t even come down for the meeting and we won’tget the grant,” he told the board.

The project is geared toward building a playground on land thecity purchased from Bethel Church.

The church sold the land on the agreement that it would be puttoward a playground for the neighborhood. Recreation departmentofficials have located a grant that would build a $100,000 park if$30,000 worth of volunteer labor is donated by the city.

Also, Brookhaven resident Shannon Bowden spoke to the boardabout the possibility of starting a youth council to teach youngpeople about government.

“It would teach them how government works and teach them theirviews are important,” she said. “Also, it would keep the mayor andboard of aldermen aware of issues that affect kids today.”

Bowden said she thought the group could meet once a month andhave a leader to represent them at the aldermen meetings.

Massengill said he thought it was a good idea to give youngpeople a chance to learn more about government, citing times scouttroops and other youth organizations had attended meetings.

“But I would think in 30 minutes of a meeting it’s hard tounderstand what government is all about,” he said. “You sure canlearn a lot about the process in a year.”

Aldermen agreed Bowden’s plan was worth looking into andencouraged her to look into a program offered by the MississippiMunicipal League that serves a similar purpose. They agreed thatwith some tweaking, there was potential in the idea and they woulddiscuss it again at a future meeting.

“I just want to get them involved in the government and givethem something to do,” Bowden said.