ith next week’s public discussion of a proposed public smoking ban looming over the proceedings, Parkville’s Board of Aldermen convened Tuesday night to conduct its regular city business. But there was no huffing or puffing at this week’s meeting, as the board met before a nearly empty chamber where not one alderman cast a single dissenting vote.
What difference can a week make? Well, next Tuesday, Sept. 21, the council will take up its controversial municipal smoking ban. While she urged decorum and mutual respect, sporadic comments from Mayor Kathryn Dusenbery intimate that she anticipates a long and perhaps contentious meeting in front of a standing room only crowd.
Alderman J.C. “Charlie” Poole asked the board to consider the ban on smoking in public places, citing that “people have the right to have a smoke-free establishment.”. The ban includes restaurants, which is an essential component of Parkville’s economy.
Dusenbery told The Landmark that there will not be a vote on the municipal ban next week. The board will simply have a public discussion of the proposal. Neither Dusenbery nor Poole knew when the proposal would come up for a vote.
Two Parkville restaurants, Piropo’s and Café Des Amis, have already implemented voluntary bans on smoking at their businesses. Dusenbery and merchant organizations oppose the municipal ban and fear the negative economic impact that could result from its adoption. They suggest that this type of a private solution is a rational alternative.
Poole said that he anticipates that the ban will pass and “hope[s] that it is sooner rather than later.” He countered the concerns of the opposition, indicating that businesses in other cities that have adopted similar proposals, including Maryville, Missouri, have experienced economic gains after implementing the ban.
Dusenbery indicated several times throughout the meeting that she did not want to place too many unrelated items on next week’s agenda as she already expects a long evening. She recounted discussions with her contemporaries from other cities who cautioned of the issue’s divisive nature. She, however, maintained that Parkville is a great city with a great council and that she is sure that they could stay above the fray.
While Poole sees the issue as a public health matter and disagrees with Dusenbery’s position on the issue, he concurred with her sentiments on the tone of the discourse.
At the close of the meeting, Dusenbery distributed a copy of a restaurant smoking guide from Overland Park, Kansas that she asked the board to consider in lieu of the ban. She indicated that Parkville’s own Nick & Jake’s restaurant had already implemented a private solution to the issue by installing a “smoke eater.” It was a solution that the restaurant adopted in its first location in Overland Park.
The mayor also pointed out that other cities have even considered banning smoking outside public places, suggesting that there may be a slippery slope if the board chose to adopt the ban.
Earlier in the meeting, Dusenbery reasserted that she would like to begin the board of aldermen meetings by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She has sought to adopt the practice since shortly after her election in April 2004. Alderman Brian Atkinson voiced that he was hesitant over the legal questions that the city may confront if the practice was implemented. Poole suggested that if they decided to recite the pledge that he would like to also consider opening in prayer. He later told The Landmark that he would support both measures and added that “as a nation, we have drifted away from that.”
The board voted to table the issue for discussion at a later time.
Dusenbery asked the aldermen to seek the city administrator’s approval before contacting the city attorney as she is concerned over the city’s heightened legal fees. At her insistence, the board reluctantly agreed to adopt the practice on a trial basis.
The board unanimously approved a contract for city administrator Joe Turner and unrelated professional services contracts for wastewater capacity improvements and the McAfee Pump Station. It was expected to vote on an employment contract for Police Chief Bill Hudson. Several aldermen and Chief Hudson, however, indicated that they had not had sufficient time to review the terms of the new contract. The council agreed to revisit the issue next week.
As noted, the next meeting of the Parkville Board of Aldermen will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. Members of the public are advised to arrive early for seating, as a full house is anticipated.