Also delayed was a decision on whether the city should restrict council members from texting during meetings.
Both initiatives, brought to the table by Councilwoman Cris Welsh Wednesday night, were dismissed until the council’s next work session after heated discussions between council members and the mayor.
Lisa Crossman from Cobb and Douglas Public Heath and Welsh presented the proposed ordinance, which would ban all forms of smoking, including e-cigarettes, from all city property and most businesses. It was meant to be a “conversation starter,” the council said, which wouldn’t be adopted without input from the city’s residents.
Mayor Mark Mathews wasn’t so sure the city needed to hear more input from residents.
“It’s not something a local government should be enforcing on local business owners or personal residences,” said Mathews, after listening to the presentation.
“I think this is just the start of the conversation,” Crossman said. She said she hopes other cities in Cobb County would follow Kennesaw’s lead in becoming smoke-free.
Council members were most concerned about how the ban would impact local businesses.
“We need to stay out of businesses. That’s not where the government should be,” said council member Matt Riedemann, who added he has heard mostly negative feedback from residents about the proposed ban.
There are 150 businesses in Cobb County that allow smoking, and less than 15 of these are in Kennesaw, said Kirk Miller, a grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society, who presented the ordinance alongside Crossman.
These include popular establishments like Bullfrogs Bar, Kennesaw Billiards and the Electric Cowboy, Welsh said.
“We are really not looking at a huge dramatic change here,” Crossman argued.
Council members seemed unsure.
About 40 residents showed up at City Hall on Wednesday night, just down the block from downtown Kennesaw, to watch the discussion.
“I believe in the freedom of choice,” said council member Jeff Duckett. “If we impose something on a business and they fail to enforce it, it’s our fault,” he added, as a member of the audience replied, “Amen.”
David Owens, who owns Dixie’s Vapor Shop in the Kennesaw Landing Shopping Center, said the proposed ban would greatly impact his business, which opened in July.
Owens sells electronic cigarettes and advanced personal vaporizers at his shop, which tries to distance itself from the negative connotation cigarettes carry, he said. By outright banning e-cigarettes and vaporizers, the city would prohibit his clients from “vaping” where traditional smoking is not allowed, he said.
He attended Wednesday’s meeting with Todd Sherman and Ian Aros, who plan to open their own specialty shop within the next month where they will sell vaporizers and e-cigarettes. All three men attended the meeting to let the council know they did not support the proposed ban.
“This is a freedom of choice thing. They are trying to take away our pursuit of happiness,” Owens said.
After a lengthy discussion, the council decided, at the request of council member Bruce Jenkins, to move the conversation until its next work session at the end of October, where it plans to consider setting up a time to hear public input on the matter.
Close to half of the audience trickled out after the council pushed back the smoking decision.
Texting during meetings a hot issue
The council then turned its attention to communicating electronically during council meetings.
Welsh complained the council had no policy on using smartphones, iPads and other electronic devices to communicate with each other during council meetings. She believes the council needs to be more transparent with its communications.
“It’s our government and our people, and our people need to know what we are doing,” she said.
Council member Tim Killingsworth disagreed, saying, “I don’t need a policy. I’m an adult,” and pointed to his two cellphones that were tucked under the table.
Jenkins supported adopting a policy, acknowledging the members of the police department and city workers who were in the crowd, whose responsibility it was, he said, to let them know of an emergency, if there was one.
Other council members thought the proposal was immature and unnecessary.
“If you want to sit there and look like a rude person, you can,” Killingsworth said, as Mathews tapped away on his iPhone.
The council decided to put off any decision on the issue at least until its next council meeting, which will be in the council chambers at City Hall at 6 p.m. on Oct. 30.