By Justin Nutter
Kansas State Collegian
The Manhattan Board of Commissioners declined a proposed ordinance that would have banned smoking in public places and places of employment in the City of Manhattan.
The commission gathered for a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the ordinance. City Attorney Bill Frost opened the meeting by discussing the possible outcomes.
“We essentially have one of two options,” Frost said. “We can elect to pass the ordinance as it was submitted, or we can pass a resolution to submit the ordinance to a vote on the Nov. 4 ballot.”
Frost said the ordinance did not appear to contain any legal issues in its presented form.
“From what we can tell, there are no constitutional concerns with the ordinance the way it was proposed,” he said.
Stan Watt, Manhattan resident, spoke on behalf of the petitioning party and gave a presentation that covered the basics of the ordinance. He emphasized several times that the ban was not proposed because citizens were concerned about related economical issues.
“I want to stress that this is solely a health issue and not a business issue,” Watt said. “People have the right to smoke if they want, but they don’t have the right to force innocent people to breath the toxic fumes that they’re creating.”
Watt ended his presentation by stating that the city had already shown that it preferred the ordinance.
“This is a good, solid, fair ordinance,” he said. “It provides equal protection for everyone and the community wants it.”
After Watt’s presentation, citizens were allowed to voice their opinions on the ordinance. A large number of citizens, including various Manhattan business owners, spoke to the board. There was no clear consensus among those who spoke.
“Consequences of secondhand smoke cannot be argued,” said Lydia Peele, K-State student body president. “It would be in the best interest of all Kansas State students to pass this ordinance.”
Dr. Steve Short, lung doctor at Mercy Regional Health Center, expressed his agreement with Peele.
“Restaurant and bar
owners should see their employees’ health as a huge benefit,” he said. “A non-smoking section in a restaurant isn’t really non-smoking if there’s still smoke in the environment.”
All of the business owners who spoke at the meeting wanted the ordinance defeated.
“I’m not here to defend smokers or smoking, but I’m here to defend the freedom of choice that this country was founded on,” said Russell Loub, owner and operator of the Little Apple Brewing Co.
Keith Eyestone, president of the Aggieville Business Association, agreed with Loub, saying the ordinance was poorly constructed.
“We disagree with the ordinance as a whole,” Eyestone said. “We disagree with the way it was written.”
Dee Ross, Manhattan resident, expressed his disgust with the proposal, saying that by passing the ordinance, the commission would be doing an injustice to the U.S.
“How dare you look a soldier or veteran in the face and tell him thank you for his service to this country,” Ross said. “When you say the Pledge of Allegiance, do you forget to say ‘With liberty and justice for all?'” Ross appeared to become increasingly upset as he spoke, and he ended with a gesture that sent the audience into a buzz.
“Let me end by giving you socialist fascists the New York salute you deserve,” said Ross as he waved his middle finger in the air.
The ordinance failed in a 2-3 vote by the commissioners. The vote to put the ordinance on the Nov. 4 ballot passed by unanimous decision.