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Final smoke vote on agenda: City council will decide on divisive ban

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A cigarette smolders in an ashtray at the bar Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, at the Hacienda Lounge.
A cigarette smolders in an ashtray at the bar Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, at the Hacienda Lounge.

The Columbus City Council will cast final votes Tuesday on whether the city should prohibit smoking in bars, taverns and private clubs and on how the council districts will be reshaped.

The council also will consider a capital improvements project resolution that has been the source of friction between Mayor Kristen Brown and council member Jim


The council gave first approval Nov. 20 to a smoking ordinance that is stronger than state requirements. It prohibits smoking in all premises, structures, facilities, establishments and stores exempted in the state law, including bars, taverns and private clubs.

However, the local ordinance gives the bars, taverns and private clubs until June 1, 2013, to comply. The local ordinance also exempts businesses in private residences where all employees reside.

The ordinance passed by a 5-2 vote; Frank Miller and Aaron Hankins voted against it. A second passage is needed for the ordinance to take effect immediately.

The initial passage was the result of three months of debating public health issues related to secondhand smoke, the right to choose one’s business model and the possible economic impact a stronger ordinance would have on bars and private clubs.

Jim Preble, owner of Ziggie’s Pub and Eatery, 3029 N. National Road, said after the council’s vote that he expects to lose $300 to $400 daily from his lunch crowd with the change.

Antismoking proponents disagree on the economic impact.

“Business owners in every community that has adopted a strong secondhand smoke ordinance have had the same fears that the bar owners here have expressed. We certainly hope and expect that the local experience will be the same as it has been in other locations, where the nonsmoking public more than makes up for any loss from smokers no longer being able to smoke inside,” Beth Morris, director of community health partnerships for Columbus Regional Health and Healthy Communities, said Friday.

Mark Wilcox, owner of Scores Sports Bar and Grill, 3539 W. Two Mile House Road, said he’s still trying to persuade council members to change their minds. He’s given some information about economic studies and granting waivers, and he plans to meet with some members today.

“I just want to make sure they are fully informed of everything,” Wilcox said.

Capital projects

Oversight of spending for city capital improvement projects has involved wrangling, too.

The issue centers on who should control $7.5 million in spending on capital improvement projects for 2013.

The friction dates to Oct. 2, when the City Council approved the 2013 city budget, with $46.2 million in spending. It also passed an amendment — proposed by Lienhoop — that requires the mayor to seek council approval for big-ticket expenditures from the capital improvement and cumulative capital funds.

During the Nov. 20 council meeting, a resolution was introduced that would approve a large list of capital improvement projects, their funding sources and estimated costs, allowing the city to move forward with them instead of coming back for piecemeal approval.

Brown said the resolution would reverse the Oct. 2 amendment and allow the city to move forward with the project.

During the Nov. 20 council meeting, Lienhoop asked for the vote on the resolution to be delayed, so the council members could examine it closely before acting on it.

Council districts

Columbus’ five City Council districts would become more even in population with the shifting of several precincts, according to an ordinance that received initial approval Nov. 20.

The council used population information from the 2010 U.S. Census to redraw district boundaries.

Four districts would see either a population increase or decrease, plus some geographic changes. District 1, generally considered east Columbus, would remain unchanged. The council’s two at-large seats encompass the entire city.

The Indiana Elections

Division recommended to the council that the difference between the most and least populace districts be less than 10 percent of the average district population.

Currently, District 2, which represents northwestern and southwestern Columbus, is the largest at 11,771 people, and District 5, which covers central and northern Columbus, is the smallest at 6,372.

The proposed changes make District 5 the most populous at 9,207, while District 1 would be the smallest at 8,486.

The most noticeable geographic shift was moving the northwestern part of District 2 to District 5.

That involves moving voting precincts 400, the western portion of 500 and 4250 to District 5. Precincts 400 and 500 have been voting at Donner Center, 22nd and Sycamore streets. Precinct 4250 has voting at German Township Fire Station, 9428 Main St., Taylorsville.

Precinct 1100, which had been split between Districts 3 and 4, would belong entirely to District 3. The precinct votes at Richards Elementary School, 311 Fairlawn Drive.

Precinct 3350, which has voting at Parkside Elementary, 1400 Parkside Drive, would move from District 5 to District 4.

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