A new list of signatures could mean an end to Springfield's smoking ban. On Thursday, members of the group against the ban will submit a new petition to the city clerk. It asks for the ban to be essentially repealed.
“We didn't do any active petitioning, no canvassing, no standing outside of post offices and yet we got over 4,000 signatures,” Live Free Springfield chairman Dave Myers said. The group collected signatures at about 50 locations around the city. “From what I've heard they have plenty,” Springfield Mayor Jim O’Neal said. “I'm not surprised.”
It seems certain Springfield city council members will once again make a decision about smoking inside businesses and indoor public places. “I would predict if it does go to the vote of the people, to go that step backwards, it will be defeated by an even bigger margin,” O’Neal said. Opponents of the ban think more voters will head to the polls a second time around. “If it goes to the voters, I'm absolutely certain it will pass,” Myers said. “In the last election we only lost by six-percent.”
City leaders will have to decide to adopt the reversal of the smoking ban or send the issue back to voters. They could also adopt and amend the reversal ordinance. “We can take control of the ordinance and re-write it to our own liking,” O’Neal said. “Even though I disagree with them, that's really not what I like to do in the spirit of fairness.”
Those who gathered thousands of signatures say they want the ordinance to change. “We really hope the city council does their job and passes this,” Myers said. “Sending it to the voters would cost the city yet more money.”
“It's strictly a public health issue there is no question second hand smoke is a carcinogenic,” O’Neal said. Both sides remain passionate about their stance on the issue. “The city is losing money in legal fees, the city is losing money in tax revenue, businesses are closing and people are losing their civil rights,” Myers said.
O’Neal says he would consider supporting amendments that allow performers to smoke E-cigarettes on stage and smoking in tobacco shops where tobacco is the primary product for sale. Because someone could claim an ordinance was discriminatory toward them, O’Neal says making amendments could create legal issues
The city's law department will review the petition. Live Free Springfield members need 2,101 valid signatures. The clerk then has 20 days to complete certification and send the issue to city council. Council members will decide if they will adopt it or send it back to voters.
Springfield Smokefree Air Act of 2011 took effect in June of last year. The ordinance prohibits smoking in all enclosed places of employment, all enclosed public places and within five feet of outside entrances, operable windows and ventilation systems where smoking is prohibited.