Tuesday night, the Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 in favor of the new secondhand smoke ordinance. It will now move on to the full City Council. The Committee struck the sections banning smoking in new multi-unit housing and declaring secondhand smoke a public nuisance.
So here’s what is going forward:
- pay phones
- ticket lines
- bus stops
- taxi stands
- sports fields
- public gardens
- skateboard parks
- amusement parks
- golf courses
- common areas (including outdoor common areas) of all multi-unit housing
- within 10 feet or any door or window of a bar (under our old law, bars were exempt from the ban on smoking outside of buildings)
- any building used as a licensed child care, adult care, or health care facility
- in theatrical performances, unless smoking is an integral part of the plot
Oh, and my absolute favorite part:
Moreover, no person shall intentionally or recklessly expose another person to secondhand smoke in response to that person’s effort to achieve compliance with this chapter.
That’s right. If somebody comes up to me while I’m on the pay phone and tells me that the law requires I extinguish my cigarette, it would be illegal for me to respond by blowing smoke in their face. Is there any purpose whatsoever to this provision? Why does the Council think they can legislate common courtesy?
Larry Reid forcefully and repeatedly told the Committee and the audience that he thought passing radical anti-smoking restrictions should not be the Council’s priority. I couldn’t agree more. He pointed out that there has been zero demand from the public for the legislation, and noted that he did not recieve a single message from a constituent other than American Lung Association form letters endorsing the measure. (In response, Nancy Nadel angrily waved the result’s of Barbara Killey’s survey in his face and shouted “These are from NCPCs! NCPCs!” Between this and the near-temper tantrum she threw over not being the one to move the Wayans brothers ENA in July, I’m starting to wonder if she has some kind of terrible hormonal imbalance that causes her to act like a spoiled child whenever she doesn’t get what she wants.)
Reid also repeatedly shared his concerns about implementation of the policy, saying that the Council shouldn’t be passing even more laws they know they can’t enforce. (Every time the question of enforcement is raised, Barbara Killey and Nancy Nadel insist that no city resources will be needed to apply the law, and that “peer pressure” will take care of it.) He asked that when the ordinance comes before the Council, staff provide a detailed enforcement plan, explaining who will be responsible for ensuring that the law is applied, how much it will cost, and where the funding will come from. Nancy Nadel mocked his request, while Pat Kernighan and Jean Quan just sat there in silence.
Pat Kernighan and Jean Quan both said that they saw the policy as somewhat impractical, with Pat noting “I can’t think of a place where smokers can smoke if we pass this.” Nonetheless, they seemed content with their compromise of striking the housing-related provisions and passing yet another law they know won’t ever be applied. Reid felt differently, saying:
I just don’t understand what we are doing besides getting our name on the front page of the Chronicle or the Trib.
What we’re doing is not serving any constructive purpose other than when we go out campaigning we can say that we passed this.
Nancy Nadel was very defensive about the policy, but her unpersuasive attempts to answer concerns raised by the community and other Councilmembers came off as desperate and made her look really out of touch. I seriously doubt that many of her constituents would agree with her assertion that violent crime on the streets and outdoor smoking are equally serious threats to public safety.
Larry Reid seems to understand that Oaklanders are tired of the Council ignoring the pressing public safety issues facing them every day and passing stupid law after stupid law that goes completely ignored. What will it take to make the rest of the Council get it?