A renewed attempt to pass tighter smoking rules in Macon faltered in committee on Monday.
Despite revision and a well-publicized debate on the ordinance, a 2-2 tie vote in the Public Safety Committee of City Council halted it again.
A revised ordinance against smoking in restaurants, bars and other places failed to make it through the Public Safety Committee.
Council members Larry Schlesinger and Nancy White, both sponsors of the ordinance, voted to move it on for the full councils consideration; but Councilmen Frank Tompkins and Virgil Watkins voted no, and Councilman Lonnie Miley -- the committees other member -- left the meeting before the smoking ordinance came up. Two previous agenda items had taken more than two hours.
An earlier version of the ordinance passed council in April but was vetoed by Mayor Robert Reichert. Several changes had been made in the new version, including allowing smoking in city parks except around playgrounds and seating areas. The ordinance still would not exempt electronic cigarettes, which dont release any smoke, but would allow smoking of non-tobacco products such as cloves.
White said the latest key revision was to eliminate a definite starting date for its effectiveness. Instead, the latest version -- if passed -- would become effective only after Bibb County passed a matching ordinance.
In the debate preceding the vote, no new arguments emerged; proponents characterized it as a health measure and said it wouldnt hurt local business, while opponents called it an attack on personal liberty and said they expected a ban on smoking in bars to cause serious losses.
Youth violence plans
An administration proposal to spend $300,000 on six new police officers, as part of a plan to deal with a recent outbreak of youth violence, got a second two-week postponement from the committee. Schlesinger was the only committee member to vote against postponing the budget amendment; Miley had left during the discussion.
Council members said they want to see some data to demonstrate that the move would be effective, and that the hiring should be part of a comprehensive plan, not presented piecemeal.
Tompkins gave a long speech calling for an aggresive, multifaceted attack that engaged schools, parents, churches and private support, not just law enforcement.
Reichert and city Internal Affairs Director Keith Moffett both said the police hiring would be just one piece of the puzzle, but that didnt satisfy council members. They wanted details of an overall plan before approving individual parts.
On Sept. 15, Reichert and Police Chief Mike Burns announced a 19-page plan, which included hiring the six officers and a variety of proposed programs and legal moves.
In conjunction with the budget request, administration officials brought in retired detention officer Bruce Griggs, who described himself as a violence prevention specialist.
Griggs gave a long and vehement sales pitch for the Alive and Free Campaign, which he offered to set up and run here.
The program would trick troubled youth into various safe havens with music, sports and entertainment, as a first step in getting them re-engaged in the community and responsive to leadership, he said.
Griggs said the program would cost $207,000, $228,000 or $275,000, but he described it as a grant proposal, perhaps funded by local businesses and other donors.
Councilman Rick Hutto asked if the administration intended to request any money for Griggs proposal. No, said Moffett.
Council members said theyre interested in hearing more, but want to hear a variety of proposals and want them backed up with a record of measurable results.
Macon police Sgt. Robert Carr, interim director of the Animal Control division, gave council a list of ways in which his staff is complying with recommendations from an internal audit. Earlier this year, the audit found serious deficiencies in procedures and money-handling at the animal shelter.
Carr said a procedure manual is being written, and some recommendations were implemented immediately. But Councilman Tom Ellington noted that all items were supposed to have been in place by July 1. He, White, and Councilwoman Lauren Benedict pressed for faster compliance, cross-training of employees and more feedback to council.
Carr acknowledged the delay, saying it was due in part to lack of workers and dealing with a disease outbreak that required evacuation and fumigation of the shelter.
Right now we are three employees down, he said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.