Council discusses smoke-free Urbana

By Jonathan Jacobson

Members of the Urbana City Council conducted a late-night meeting Monday to assess the current state of the smoke-free legislation, which has been on their desks for months.

The council, having already conducted a public forum in early March, was presented with an ordinance drafted by the C-U Smoke Free Alliance that could be passed before the end of May.

In attendance at the meeting were Scott Hayes, president of the C-U Smoke Free Alliance and Giraldo Rosales, member at large of the Champaign City Council.

“I am hoping we can mutually agree with Champaign to pass the ordinance,” said Urbana City Councilman Dennis Roberts (Ward 5). “It’s an opportunity to build better relations with the city of Champaign.”

The council said it is hesitant to pass anything without the support of Champaign, fearing that its businesses will be hurt by customers who will go to Champaign to smoke.

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    The Champaign City Council tried to pass a smoke-free ordinance in September, but it was defeated 5-4. Procedural rules allow an ordinance to be reintroduced after six months.

    Rosales is confident that Champaign’s council can pass the ordinance if it is able to do so before Councilwoman Kathy Ennen leaves in June. Ennen supported the ordinance in September.

    The council will continue to work on the ordinance regardless of what happens in Champaign, but some members think they may have to cut back on some of the restrictions.

    “If Champaign doesn’t do this with us, I would entertain Urbana just starting (the smoking ban) in restaurants,” said Councilman Brandon Bowersox (Ward 4). The ban is currently much more comprehensive and involves bars, bowling alleys and most indoor places in the city.

    The current ordinance uses many of the clauses put in place by smoking bans in Springfield, Roberts said. But it probably will not be presented to the council until the end of May, when Champaign could also pass their ban.

    The council has not addressed when the ban would go into effect, although Councilwoman Danielle Chynoweth (Ward 2) suggested that it begin in time for the students to return for the fall semester. That way, the change won’t be so abrupt, she said.