FINDLAY - With a strong admonition from Mayor Tony Iriti to take its concerns directly to city council, the city's board of health agreed to ask council to delay approving the smoking ordinance now on the table.
"It's a bad ordinance," Health Commissioner Stephen Mills told the health board yesterday. "It's better to table it than to pass a bad ordinance."
Dr. Mills said he did not believe residents understand that the proposed law would not make a single restaurant in the city smoke-free.
In fact, the new law makes almost no changes to the smoking regulations that were adopted by the board of health in 1992, Dr. Mills said.
"All we're doing here is shuffling some papers. We already have no smoking in the high school and public buildings and the mall. We
need to strengthen this ordinance and maybe make some compromises with City Council," he said. " This ordinance does nothing for second-hand smoke in the restaurants."
While Dr. Mills first asked the board to send a letter to council asking that it table the ordinance, Mayor Iriti - who serves as president of the health board - said he would have no part of that.
An ad hoc committee appointed to research the smoking issue met for eight months. Two proposals were brought before council - one that advocated a total public smoking ban and another that would continue to allow smoking in bars, bowling alleys, and restaurants.
It is the second one that will be before council for a vote Tuesday night.
"With all due respect Dr. Mills, this process has been over a year," Mr. Iriti said. "The ordinances were first introduced. They were both tabled. There's been at least eight weeks between, and it will be 10 weeks before it comes to council for a final reading, and now at the 11th hour, there are questions.
I suggest you set up a meeting with council and get your questions answered."
Health board members Gregory Cline and William Wolf, Jr., agreed that the board should seek a meeting with council before Tuesday.
"I think that would be more effective than a letter," Mr. Wolf said.
While Mr. Iriti said he thought the discussion put him, as mayor, on the spot, board member William Alge, Jr., assured him it was not aimed at him personally.
"If you thought this was some sort of personal attack, you're mistaken," Mr. Alge said.
Dr. Mills said after the meeting that he was taken by surprise - as were others who have followed the smoking issue - that just last week city council agreed to resurrect the tabled smoking ordinance, remove two amendments that had been added, and give the legislation a second reading.
Because of the quick action, the ordinance is suddenly on track for a final reading and possible passage on Tuesday.
While health officials feel the ordinance is too weak, Tom Davis, substance abuse prevention specialist for the health department, also told the health board the ordinance was so vague that it would be difficult to enforce. He questioned where the wording came from and how the health department would be compensated for enforcing it.
Although he did not attend the meeting, city law director Dave Hackenberg said yesterday that the ordinance was modeled after one approved in 1987 in Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.
He said the law has worked well there and is very similar to Findlay's 1992 smoking regulations.
"It's no more vague than what the health department enforced for the last 12 years," Mr. Hackenberg said. "If enforcement's a problem, well, they should've had a problem the last 12 years."
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