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Countywide smoking ban passes with year delay

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

After hours of political deal-making, Cook County commissioners approved a countywide smoking ban that would affect all public places in most suburbs and goes into effect in one year.
Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) said he was forced to add the year delay, and exempt nursing homes and private clubs, after too many commissioners raised objections Tuesday. The bill passed out of committee without dissent Monday.
"I was very close to having enough votes for only a six-month delay," Quigley said. "This way, I've got all of them. And the (anti-smoking) advocates said it's OK with them."
The ban passed 13 to 3, with commissioners Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park), Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) and Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) opposing. President John Stroger, who said earlier he supported the measure, was absent after suffering a stroke Tuesday.
The ban affects all public places, including bars and restaurants, in any Cook County suburb that doesn't have its own smoking ordinance.
Quigley's compromise defeated Gorman's competing bill, which would have made the ban more similar to Chicago's recently enacted measure.
Gorman wanted a two-year delay for bars and restaurants with bars in them, and wanted a provision that would allow smoking if filtration technology ever proved good enough to remove all harm from smoking.
Gorman said she and other commissioners thought those provisions were already contained in Quigley's ordinance. Both she and Murphy were concerned differences from the Chicago ban would leave suburban restaurant owners at a disadvantage.
"It was sold to me that it mirrored the city's (ban)," Gorman said. "I felt blindsided as a commissioner. ... I get upset and offended when a city commissioner (Quigley) dictates what he thinks is best to my suburban constituency."
Quigley said he made no secret of the proposal and anti-smoking advocates knew enough to show up in favor of the measure at the committee meeting Monday.
"Those who didn't show up, didn't participate in the game, a nd that's their fault," Quigley said. "Those who are promoting an extended (delay) on this are not selling economic development. ... They're selling death and illness."
Although the horse-trading was intense by county standards — where few deals are made between fractious board members — it was still nothing compared to the weeks of negotiations that accompanied the Chicago ban.
But Tuesday headlines announcing the impending ban set off a flurry of activity, and commissioners began to waver as phone calls from businesses poured in.
"The (health) advocates thought we were dead today," Quigley said.
Quigley negotiated the compromise before and during the meeting, distributing his final version more than an hour after the meeting started.
Senior citizens and nursing home advocates packed the room, many holding signs demanding the right to live as they choose in their homes. Several men wearing coats embroidered with the name of a suburban bar sto od along the back wall but did not publicly comment.
Although the Illinois Restaurant Association was reportedly working the phones Tuesday trying to drum up opposition, no one from the organization or any other business group spoke up at the meeting Wednesday.
Donald Storino, executive director of the West Central Municipal Conference, said mayors were worried about the county controlling local policy.
"We feel this issue, while important, is best decided at the local level," Storino said.
Commissioner Peter Silvestri, who also is the mayor of Elmwood Park, said he agreed to support the ordinance after the year delay was added because it gives local communities a chance to pass their own ordinance, which would exempt them from the county ban.
"No one is going to bully the 128 mayors of Cook County," Silvestri said. "They're mean."
Joel Africk, CEO of the American Lung Association of Greater Chicago, spoke on behalf of a consortium of public health groups backing the ban.
"This is one of the most important health matters that could come before you," Africk told the board. "This ... is to protect all classes of workers."



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