Tuesday, December 21, 2010
It’s been less than a month since Fulton’s smoking ban took effect, and some residents are looking for ways to repeal the controversial new law.
Deby Fitzpatrick, owner of B&N Accounting, in Fulton, is working with other local businesses to get the nearly 800 signatures needed to repeal the encompassing ban.
“What we have in the petition is a request to reverse (the ban) — not to amend it, but to get rid of it,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s primarily because of the way that it’s written and also because it puts the business owners in the place of being policemen.”
Fitzpatrick’s accounting firm works with many of Fulton’s businesses.
“They can’t even sit on the deck at Post Office Bar and Grill and smoke,” she said. “Because you can’t be within 15 feet of a door entrance, air conditioning unit or anything that could bring the smoke in, there is one corner of the deck where you can smoke there. That’s why there’s a blue-tarped smoking booth out there.
“The law is just too constrictive — to confining.”
The 15-foot rule is a point of contention for Fitzpatrick who noted that 15 feet from a door in her business is the middle of 5th Street.
“You can’t even stand on a city sidewalk and smoke,” she said. “Normally that is considered a public right of way. We’re doing this because the ban not only takes away more rights than necessary, but business owners have to become the police. That’s just not fair to them.”
Fitzpatrick said if the city’s government had written and wanted the law, she and others would find it more acceptable, but the law was drawn up by an outside group.
So she worked to get the necessary paperwork together for her current petition, which is in local bars and restaurants that requested it as well as smoke shops in town.
“We want to see it repealed. They are wanting to do a smoking ban statewide,” she said. “All the states north of us have done it, and we don’t want it here. Part of the packet is for city-registered voters. There is a sheet for county and state-registered voters.”
Fitzpatrick also included a voter registration card in the packets for people who want to sign the petition, but haven’t registered to vote yet. She said many who own businesses in Fulton are not Fulton residents, so they were not included in the voting process.
Fitzpatrick has seen a lot of support for her efforts.
“There’s a lot of people all over the region chomping at the bits on this one,” she said. “A lot of people are up in arms. I don’t think it will be hard to get 800 signatures.”
Fulton Director of Administration Bill Johnson said the city has not received a lot of complaints about the ban, which took effect on the first Saturday of December. He said the primary complaint they have gotten is over the law’s wording regarding smoking in vehicles on company time.
“People think it’s a little strict,” he said.
Johnson was aware of Fitzpatrick’s attempt at a petition. He said that all signatures on the Fulton ballot must be from Fulton registered voters and any signatures from county residents living outside of Fulton would be thrown out.