Kennesaw postpones voting on smoking ban, texting in meetings until after elections
by Hannah Morgan
November 02, 2013 12:43 AM | 2901 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — The Kennesaw City Council this week postponed controversial votes on a city-wide smoking ban and a ban on texting during meetings out of fear of Tuesday’s election, one council member believes.

“I think that as a civilized society, we should be able to discuss controversial things without the fear of re-election,” Councilwoman Cris Welsh said.

Welsh brought hard copies of her proposal to the council’s Wednesday meeting that would establish a policy to ban all electronic communications, including texting and emailing between council members during meetings.

As her fellow council members read through the proposal, she said, “I think any communication we have amongst ourselves should be where the public can see it.”

Three seats on the council are up for election Tuesday, and all three incumbents have challengers.

Councilman Jeff Duckett faces James Sebastian, Councilman Matt Riedemann faces Debra Williams, and Councilman Bruce Jenkins faces former Mayor Leonard Church and Briggett Washington.

Mayor defers vote on communications proposal

About 20 residents watched as Mayor Mark Mathews deferred a vote on adopting Welsh’s resolution on electronic communications and passed the document to Councilman Bruce Jenkins, who sits on the city’s Benefits Committee.

Jenkins said he hoped to have a draft of the policy written up by the next work session on November 13.

Mathews also requested the committee discuss the credit card and travel expense policies of the city’s elected officials. The mayor’s request follows a Sunday report in the MDJ on the subject.

After a brief discussion with the council, Mathews asked Jenkins to have the Benefits Committee look at Welsh’s resolution, as well as the travel and expense policies of all council members, and to use the city employee handbook to determine what parts of the manual were applicable to council members.

“I want to get clear guidance and written documentation and draft a separate council handbook,” Jenkins said Thursday, so that the “gray area,” for what rules from the city employee handbook apply to council members would be made clear.

Jenkins hoped to have a draft of the separate “council handbook” that would include a per diem policy, a travel policy and an electronic communication policy for council members by the next work session.

Smoking in Kennesaw

Welsh has asked the council to discuss adopting a city-wide smoking ban for the last two months, and has been met with resistance from council members.

On Wednesday night, she offered to drop e-cigarettes from the ban, in an effort to move the proposal forward.

Yet the mayor and council members were still hesitant to adopt such a resolution.

“I understand this is a health issue, but we can address the issue by teaching,” rather than legislating, Jenkins said.

Welsh agreed to redraft an ordinance that would ban smoking only in government buildings and parks, including the city’s parking lots.

Welsh was happy to see the council had found some common ground on what has become a contentious issue throughout the city, she said. She hopes by the next work session Nov. 13, the city will be able to schedule a public forum to hear from residents what they think about the proposed smoking ban on all city property.

James Walth, who has lived in Kennesaw for eight years, said while he is a non-smoker, “I’m uncomfortable with completely banning smoking. Smokers should have safe, designated areas,” in which to smoke.

The council also unanimously voted to reject the single bid it had received from John W. Spratlin and Son, LLC, for the construction of a new education center and library archives for the city-owned Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, because it had exceeded the project’s budget. The firm had estimated the construction would cost about $1.7 million, and the city’s budget is around $1 million, said city spokeswoman Pam Davis.

The council voted 4-0 to put the project out for a rebid, with Councilman Jeff Duckett absent.

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