No smoking petition yet

Opponents have not filed response to new city ordinance

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— Almost two weeks after approving a smoking ban in public places, the city has yet to see any petition asking for the issue to go to voters.

On May 17, the City Council approved an ordinance that will ban smoking in restaurants, bars, offices, outdoor amphitheaters and workplaces starting July 1. Despite some opponents' threats to file a petition requesting that the city reconsider the ordinance or demanding that the issue go to a vote, City Clerk Julie Jordan said the city has yet to receive any petitions.

To take the ordinance back to council, a petition must be filed within 30 days of the ordinance's adoption. The petition must be signed by 20 percent of the total number of people registered to vote in the last registered election.

Because almost 7,900 people voted in the last registered election, the petition would need more than 1,500 signatures from registered voters, Jordan said. She said if a petition is handed into the city, her staff would hand check each signature to ensure it came from a registered voter within the city limits.

During the council's discussions of a smoking ban, the majority of council members supported passing an ordinance rather than taking the question to voters, noting that residents could petition for a referendum if they wanted to vote on the matter. The majority of council members said the decision was one of public safety, health and welfare.

The city also is working to put together a steering committee to come up with ideas about how to best educate the public before the ordinance goes into effect July 1. The steering committee will include representatives from restaurants, small businesses, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, the city clerk's staff, members of the parks and recreation department and law enforcement.

The city also is working on signs to distribute to local businesses that inform customers that the business is a non-smoking one. At the request of SmokeFree Steamboat, a local group that lobbied council to pass the ordinance, the city is looking for signs that say "smoke free" and come with the international no-smoking symbol. The more traditional signs say "no smoking."

Jordan said she has yet to find a distributor that makes "smoke free" signs and the city still is deciding what signs to buy. She noted that "smoke free" is a friendlier way to convey the message, but might be harder to interpret for visitors, especially international ones.

The city has indicated it would purchase 200 signs, at an estimated cost of $750, for the community to use.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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