Opponents of Toledo's smoking ban presented 16,038 signatures yesterday to city council in a second attempt to convince voters to make the ban less restrictive.
Last year, the group presented more than 16,000 signatures to get an amendment initiative on the ballot.
But the first attempt to modify the smoking ban fell short by 972 because many signatures were ruled invalid for a variety of reasons, including non-Toledo residents signing the petition.
This time, bar owners are confident they have enough valid signatures.
They need 9,479 valid signatures to get on the Nov. 2 ballot in an effort to significantly alter the ban, which was one of the toughest in the state when it was passed in July, 2003.
"We were a lot more diligent," said Arnie Elzey, owner of Arnie's Eating and Drinking Saloon at 3332 West Central Ave. "I'd be surprised if more than 25 percent were thrown out. We worked very hard this time."
Toledo's law banned smoking in most bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and other public places.
Exempted were bars smaller than 245 square feet, private clubs, and authorized smoking lounges built to city requirements.
The initiative amendment would replace the ordinance with one that would permit smoking in bowling alleys, bingo halls, bars that receive less than 35 percent of their gross revenue from food, and restaurants with fewer than 10 employees.
Several other bar owners joined Mr. Elzey yesterday as they turned over the petitions.
Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Lounge, 309 West Alexis Rd., and one of the leaders of the petition campaign, said he feels good about their chances.
At least one city councilman said he intends to stand by the original ban and also would campaign against amending it.
"I'm confident voters in Toledo will do the right thing, should they have the opportunity to vote on it," Frank Szollosi said.
"I don't wish them [bar owners] any success with what they did today."
The signatures were forwarded to the Lucas County Board of Elections where workers have been asked to certify them by Monday.
Paula Hicks-Hudson, director of the board, said "it will be tight" to meet that deadline, but expected to finish by then, though it will cost her department some overtime.
The signatures need to be certified by Aug. 19, though city council has to vote on what to do with the petitions if they are to appear on the November ballot.
Keith McCrea, Toledo city council's legislative director, said council has four options if enough signatures are declared valid:
●Decide the petitioners are right and pass the petition as a council amendment. Given that the ban passed unanimously in July, 2003, most consider this option unlikely.
●Propose passing an amendment more to their liking, and ask the smoking ban opponents if that idea satisfies them. If the opponents disagree, the initiative would go on the ballot.
●Accept the petitions and decide not to amend the ban, in which case the petitions go on the ballot automatically. This is considered the most likely outcome.
●Finally, though no one has suggested it, council technically has 30 days to act on the petitions.
If it took the full 30 days, that would push council past the deadline to get the petitions on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner, has said the amendment would weaken the ban and makes it harder to protect patrons and employees from second-hand smoke.
Mayor Jack Ford, who pushed for the ban, has said he'll campaign against the initiative.
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