City passes motion to revisit smoking ban
West Fargo City Commissioners took another hard look at the smoking ban issue Monday night before approving a motion by a 3-2 vote after almost an hour of discussion, directing the City Attorney to work with Fargo and Moorhead to draft a uniform ordinance for all three communities that will mirror the one recently passed by the Minnesota legislature going into effect Oct. 1.
Late last year, West Fargo City Commissioners relaxed the City's smoking ban that had been adopted two years earlier, by allowing smoking to return to bars where it had previously been prohibited.
With a packed Commission chamber of supporters and opponents, Commissioner Brenda Warren wasted little time making the motion saying "Minnesota put health first and passed a smoking ban. Now we have the opportunity to do the same and be good neighbors. We as elected officials need to take the first step. It is time to show some leadership and invite other communities to do the same."
Mayor Rich Mattern said that for two years West Fargo had the most restrictive smoking ordinance and didn't hear from Fargo or Moorhead officials about joining. "Up until recently, Fargo said they were going to do it on their own. Now it's up to West Fargo? Since we have so few businesses that smoking is allowed, I don't understand."
He also expressed concern about having the rural communities of Horace, Harwood and Mapleton included in the mix so there is a level playing field. "We have had discussion about Harwood, Horace and Mapleton and all of a sudden that seems to be thrown out the window as a non-factor," Mattern added.
Commissioner Mark Simmons agreed. "I think we need to get them involved. Without these communities on board, we're not a level playing field."
The Commission also heard from several people in the audience, including bar owners who said their livelihood depended on leaving the current ban alone; and advocates who argued the need for the ban to protect citizens from the ill effects of smoking and secondhand smoke.
Kurt Lepird, owner of the Silver Dollar Bar, said his business is better since smoking was allowed in the VFW again. He said he felt any ban should be statewide and not city-to-city.
June Herman of the American Heart Association urged the Commission to pass the motion which she said would be a policy toward improved health.
Warren reiterated her motion, alluding to a statement a doctor had made at an earlier meeting that by passing a good, strong ordinance "we can save more lives in one night than they can do in an entire career and I don't want any of us to forget that." Commissioner Bryan Schulz, provided the second, saying he wanted the motion to include contact with surrounding communities. Warren, Schulz and Bennett voted 'yes,' while Mattern and Simmons voiced opposition.