Mayor Tim Neese to veto repeal of Elkhart’s Clean Air Ordinance

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By Organica Music Group (Organica Music Group) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

What started as a request to accomodate a comedian coming to Elkhart soon has resulted in Mayor Tim Neese stepping in to veto the repeal the Clean Air Ordinance in Elkhart.

At first, council members were to vote on an ordinance to allow performers that are known for using smoking materials, like comedian Ron White, to be able to smoke while performing at the Lerner Theatre.

That evolved into a bigger discussion and eventually a vote to eliminate the Clean Air Ordinance entirely, which bans smoking indoors at places like bars and the Lerner Theatre.

Neese says repealing the act without public input was not fair residents. He also notes that repealing the act would just mean the city would have to follow Indiana’s nearly-identical Anti-Smoking Law.

Here’s his complete statement:

“At the Monday, January 22 City Council meeting, a request was made for an amendment to the city’s Clean Air Ordinance to allow any performer known for using smoking materials as a prop in their act to smoke while performing at the Lerner Theatre. Rather than voting on the ordinance as proposed, the Council amended the proposal and voted to repeal the city’s Clean Air Ordinance in its entirety.

“Without the presence of a local ordinance, the state of Indiana Anti-Smoking Law would become the new standard by which the city would operate. After further review of Indiana Code 7.1-5-12, it has been determined that neither the amendment as proposed nor the repeal approved by the Council would supersede state law prohibiting smoking in public places. While the Theatre remains a smoke free facility under state law, it is not anticipated that this will hinder the enjoyment of the sold-out performance.

“Since Monday’s Council meeting, my office has received an overwhelming number of calls and emails from concerned residents, business owners and health care representatives. Many in our community, both smokers and non-smokers, expressed concern regarding how a repeal of the Clean Air Ordinance could impact them and their families.

“The legislative process is designed to encourage a thorough and comprehensive review of policy and to allow ample opportunity for public input. This repeal did not appear on the agenda and the public had no opportunity to speak on the matter prior to a vote.

“The Clean Air Ordinance has been in existence for nearly 10 years and was established locally prior to a state law being in place. With the positive steps our community is taking to promote health and quality-of-place, there are numerous reasons why the Clean Air Ordinance should remain. However, of basic importance is the fact that to repeal it now, without any public feedback, takes away our residents’ fundamental freedom and right to participate in the democratic process. Thus, I will exercise my authority as mayor to veto the City Council’s repeal of the Clean Air Ordinance.”

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