Citizen task force on smoking ban has first — and last — meeting at 3 p.m. Friday

The operator of a store that sells vapor cigarettes is shown at the Feb. 10 council meeting arguing against including vapor cigarettes in a smoking ban. (eParisExtra photo)

The operator of a store that sells vapor cigarettes is shown at the Feb. 10 council meeting arguing against including vapor cigarettes in a smoking ban. (eParisExtra photo)

A citizens task force meeting at 3 p.m. Friday at City Hall will be expected to have its recommendation by the time the meeting is over, Mayor AJ Hashmi said.

The first item on the regular agenda of Monday’s meeting of the Paris City Council is: “Discuss and act on recommendations of the Task Force on the Smoking Ordinance.”

“The thought is to get this thing done and not let it linger. My intent is for people to not leave today without making a decision,” the mayor said.

“Thinking it over and over and over for the next 10 weeks is not going to make it better or easier. They sit down today and decide.

“If they are not going to sit down and decide, I’m going to go back to the council Monday night, and I’m going to tell the council you can either implement the ordinance as it is, modify it yourself, or put it to a citywide vote,” Hashmi said.

The meeting will be in first-floor conference room of City Hall at 135 1st St. SE. It will be open to the public, but people not on the committee won’t be allowed to comment.

The task force is a 10-person group appointed by the mayor from people who expressed a desire to be on it. It is divided equally — five people for the smoking ban and five people opposed to it.

“It is not a public hearing. Our goal is a solution,” the mayor said.

“If people want to come and hear what we have to say, they are welcome, but I don’t want another two-hour meeting of opinions with no conclusion.”

On the committee are:

  • For the ban: Jeff Martin, owner of five Subway Paris restaurants; Cecelia Grubbs; Linda Vandiver; Dr. Amanda Green, medical director of the Paris-Lamar County Health Department and medical director of hospitalist service at Paris Regional Medical Center; and Dr. Ted McLemore.
  • Against the ban: Jaime Haley, owner of Lucky’s Vapor Store; Kent McKee, one of the owners of McKee’s Restaurant; Patrick Durham; Lamar County Republican Chairman John Kruntorad; and Jerry Haning.

Hashmi and District 6 city councilwoman Cleonne Drake will meet with the citizens, but only to aid and assist, the mayor said.

“The first thing I’m going to say today is I don’t want it to go to a citywide vote because, one, it is a waste of money; two, it unnecessarily delays; and three, reasonable people should sit down and come to reasonable conclusions,” Hashmi said.

Under Texas law, elections must be held on the second Saturday of November or the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

“The message to the committee this afternoon will be, agree on something yourself. We’re giving you a say on this, but make a decision today. Otherwise, the council will make that decision itself on Monday night,” the mayor said.

The City Council was prepared two weeks ago to adopt an ordinance that would basically allow smoking only in a person’s home or private vehicle, or in the open air away from where other people would be bothered by second-hand smoke.

It would also be illegal for restaurants, bars or other public places to allow smoking.

By a 6-1 vote, with District 4 councilman Richard Grossnickle opposing, to let a citizens committee divided among those for and against to meet and make a recommendation. Grossnickle is for a strict ban on smoking.

Discussion among the council made it obvious the council is 6-1 for a ban, with District 5 councilman Matt Frierson opposed on grounds it was an unwanted imposition on the rights of those who own a bar, restaurant or other establishment. All seven members of the council are non-smokers.

“If they leave it to the council, you know the council’s opinion,” Hashmi said.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.