A crowd of roughly 100 filed into a conference room in Boise City Hall Wednesday night to hear a presentation by Adam Park, Mayor Dave Bieter's spokesman, detailing a smoke-free ordinance that would enhance restrictions already a part of Idaho state law. Accompanying him were Jim Hall, the city's parks director, Ralph Blount of the City Attorney's Office, and Capt. Randy Roper of the police department.
The ordinance proposes to ban smoking in all indoor public places—including parks and the Greenbelt—and a violation by a smoker would net a $69 citation. Additionally, businesses would incur $119 per violation, which Park says could add up quickly if a business allows patrons to smoke.
"It’s largely self-enforced," said Park. "If somebody is at a bar and they light up, somebody [a patron] will typically approach and ask that they not smoke. ... Only if they refuse to leave would a citation be involved."
After Park's presentation ended, the podium from which the audience could ask questions quickly turned into a soapbox for comments and hyperbole from either side of the issue. The audience leaned slightly toward pro-smoking.
"I don’t smoke. I have never smoked in my life. I was raised in a home where there was smoke, and, as far as I know, this far, I’ve never been affected by it," said Mona Lindeen, the first commenter/questioner.
"Who pays your salary?" Tom Derrick asked of Adam Park. "I wanna know who to vote against next time for being a bunch of nanny-staters and of which I’m sure you’re one."
Derrick went on to talk about Quinn's, where he enjoys the atmosphere as-is, ending with, "This is tyranny," to which many applauded. Michael Parker, a Boise State Communications student, asked about the effect on hookah bars. Park and Blatt confirmed that if adopted as written, the ordinance would ban smoking in hookah bars.
"I’ve watched [the city] slowly, incrementally take away more rights. Oh, I’ll make sure to fill out my comment card," said Charles McAffee sarcastically. "You're doing a great job in this dog-and-pony show. I really believe that the City Council is going to read my comment."
Margery Soni, a nurse practitioner at a pulmonary medical practice, said she deals with smokers struggling to quit every day. She had never met a smoker, she said, who wished they could have smoked more.
"I’m also a mom, and I can’t tell you how many times I go with her to the park, to the Grove, to the Greenbelt, and I feel terrible as a mom having to expose my child to secondhand smoke," said Soni. "So we avoid those places. That’s a hard thing to explain to a 3-year-old why we can’t go to those places when we live in a free country."
Thomas "Ted" Challenger, owner of Dirty Little Roddy's, China Blue and Main Street Bistro, agreed with the city's research. He claims that since switching to smoke-free, his business has grown. When he announced the change on Facebook, he received 350 positive comments, said Challenger.
"I have three female employees that are pregnant, and they didn't have to quit this time around," said Challenger amid raucous applause.
Overall, Park said it went well.
"It was direct democracy at its finest," said Park. "I thought it was really a good discourse, a good opportunity for people on both sides of the issue to come down. I hope we have equally as good a turnout on Oct. 18.”
That's when the public gets a second opportunity to weigh on in the matter.