Indy Smoking Ban Fails

In State News on November 2, 2009 at 1:41 pm

From the Indianapolis Star:

Ban goes down in flames of secrecy

When the proposed ban on smoking in Indianapolis is revived — and it almost certainly will be in time — let’s hope the air will be clear of some of the lamer arguments, as well as the behind-closed-doors politics, that helped block the initiative this week.

Let’s first dispense with the silliest argument against the ban. Brad Klopfenstein, former executive director of the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association, praised the council — and we’re not making this up — for “representing the rights of adults to make adult decisions.”

Does anyone truly believe that anyone has a right to willfully endanger another person’s health? Is it an adult decision to place someone’s life at risk in order to indulge in a deadly habit?

Spare us the muddled cries of “liberty.” Smokers have no more right to spew toxic substances that foul the lungs of all those around them than chemical companies have a right to pump their waste products into White River.

Then there’s the spectacle of Mayor Greg Ballard, the most disappointing figure in this entire debate.

Opponents of the ban may be misguided, but at least they had the courage to take a public stand on a contentious issue. Ballard, as a candidate for office, promised that he “would support any legislation to limit the impact of secondhand smoke.” He also promised to champion transparency in government. He struck out — and badly — on both counts this week.

Ballard not only opposed the ban but also waited until two hours before the City-County Council’s vote to deliver a veto threat to the Republican caucus in a closed-door meeting.

Ballard has refused to take a public stand on the matter. The only reason residents now know where the city’s chief executive comes down on an important policy issue was due to the investigative work of Star political columnist Matt Tully, who the next day learned of the secretive meeting involving the mayor and GOP council members.

Will the issue return to the forefront? “It’s inevitable that it’s going to pass,” said Republican council member Ben Hunter, one of four cosponsors of the ordinance. “Indianapolis will move forward on the issue.

When it does, good sense and political courage should no longer be lost in the haze.


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