Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Should Smoking Be Banned in Front of Public Buildings?

Murphy and Donovan square off over smoking in front of City Hall.

By - Oct 3rd, 2019 11:57 am
South entrance to City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

South entrance to City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Alderman Michael Murphy would like to see smoking banned within 30 feet of all city-owned or leased buildings, particularly City Hall.

A constituent raised the issue with him, saying they have to walk through smoke on their way into the covered south entrance to City Hall when they drop off a monthly property tax check.

“I want to be consistent with the rest of the governmental units in our state,” said Murphy to the Public Safety & Health Committee Thursday morning. A similar ban is in place by Milwaukee County for the Milwaukee County Courthouse and outside the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Ald. Mark Borkowski, who was a county supervisor at the time the courthouse measure was introduced, supports Murphy’s proposal, but questioned its potential effectiveness. “It sounds nice, but I’m not sure it was adhered to or enforced at all,” said Borkowski of the county’s ordinance.

Murphy said he didn’t expect the “smoke police” to come out, noting compliance would come through social pressure.

The proposal is opposed by Ald. Robert Donovan. “This is an issue I’m intimately familiar with,” said Donovan, one of the regular smokers that can be spotted outside City Hall.

“The reality is, as I see it, there is no significant problem that exists,” said Donovan. “In most instances they’re outside of 30 feet from the entrance. They’re certainly not near the entrance where there would be clouds of smoke that heaven forbid people would have to walk through.” He suggested that most smokers were city employees on breaks.

“I think the better route to go would be just to send out a memo,” concluded Donovan. “I would certainly like to try that as an option before we come down heavy-handed with an ordinance that may not even be necessary.”

Donovan suggested revisiting the issue in six months. “We would take that issue up perhaps mid-April next year,” said Donovan to laughter from the audience. The City Hall veteran is not running for re-election in spring 2020.

“A memo doesn’t cut it because people come and go,” said Murphy. He praised Donovan for being consistent, including opposing a smoking ban within City Hall 17 years ago.

Donovan, off camera while Murphy and Ald. Scott Spiker had a back-and-forth, offered “okay, fine, let the damn thing pass” into a hot microphone while he was quietly talking to one of his colleagues. He had previously asked the colleague to hold the measure.

But before the measure could pass, council members Jose G. Perez and Chantia Lewis spoke in favor of the measure because of members of their families with asthma.

The proposal is also backed by Milwaukee Health Department Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik. “For healthcare, many other organizations in town have even larger bans,” said Kowalik. She also said the smokers include both employees and visitors.

The proposal also found backing from Milwaukee Fire Department Deputy Chief Aaron Lipski. “It’s not about the smoker. It’s about the behavior and how it impacts the other person,” said Lipski. He said through the “Hold On To Your Butt MKE” campaign, new receptacles would be provided at the proper locations.

“I’m just not sure legislation is needed compared to common sense and compassion to your fellow human being,” said Spiker.

The measure was passed by the committee on a 3-1-1 vote, with Borkowski, Lewis and Perez in favor, Donovan opposed and Spiker in abstention. Spiker said he was awaiting more information.

“This is not personal,” said Murphy, but Donovan characterized the measure as overreach.

The measure will next go before the full Common Council.

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Related Legislation: File 190357

Categories: City Hall

2 thoughts on “City Hall: Should Smoking Be Banned in Front of Public Buildings?”

  1. Kent Hadley says:

    Let’s go a step further and stop employing anyone who smokes to work for the city. We as tax payers should not be responsible to pay the extra health costs for those who choose to ruin their health by smoking.

  2. blurondo says:

    Just like cigarettes, guns need to be treated as a matter of public health; highly regulated, highly taxed, and if you own one, your health insurance is more expensive.

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