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City-wide Smoking Ban To Be On Upcoming Ballot

San Marcos City Council members' decision “cleared the air” after reviewing advantages and disadvantages of four initiatives addressing a city-wide smoking cigarettes ban.

City staff members are in the process of constructing a non-binding referendum for the November ballot.

A non-binding referendum allows the city council to receive feedback from the public while maintaining the ability to reject the ordinance altogether. Residents will be able to vote after seeing language of the ordinance, but council members can modify it once residents have weighed in. City officials chose the same approach when constructing the extended bar hours ordinance in 2008.

Councilmembers Kim Porterfield, Place 1, Chris Jones, Place 4, Shane Scott, Place 6, and Ryan Thomason, Place 5, were in favor of a non-binding referendum. Those against the non-binding referendum included Jude Prather, Place 2, and Fred Terry, Place 3.

Siding with a “no action” approach, Terry said government involvement on the issue would strip business owners of their rights.

“When government restricts freedom it slows down economic growth opportunities and businesses don’t do business in that community,” Terry said. “I don’t want that for San Marcos.”

For Prather, concern about local businesses dependent on the sale of cigarettes online for a main source of revenue was the issue preventing him from agreeing with the majority of the council.

Prather mentioned establishments such as Hill Country Humidor and Stratosphere and suggested such businesses receive a waiver of exemption from the ban.

“I would vote for a ban if it includes this waiver for business that sell cigarettes,” Prather said. “This compromise would still ban smoking cigarettes in 95 percent-plus of our establishments while keeping the freedoms of our property owners.”

Thomason, Porterfield and Scott all agreed San Marcos residents should have the opportunity for involvement.

“What I like about it is that this isn’t government micromanaging — this is an American voter determining what they want their city to look like,” Thomason said. “I get that we are elected to do a job, but I think the American people should have a stronger voice at the ballot than just casting one vote for someone to do all their thinking for them.”

While having the rights of business owners in mind, Jones said giving people the opportunity to speak and be heard would be for the best.

Collette Jamison, assistant city manager, said public forums dates are tentatively set for July 18, 21 and 25. The location was not discussed.

After the public forums are concluded, the City Council will review ballot language at the Aug. 2 meeting.



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