People Ban: NE Omaha


Omaha Update

First Test Of Omaha Smoking Ban Ends With Not-Guilty Rulings
Judge Calls Law’s Language Weak

July 20, 2007
OMAHA, Neb. — Not-guilty decisions were handed down Friday afternoon in the first cases to test Omaha’s smoking ban.
The case questioned whether the Cougar Lanes is a stand-alone bar. The smoking ban applies to restaurants in the city.
In the decision, no part of the no-smoking ordinance was found to be invalid, but the ordinance itself failed when applied to the circumstances at Cougar Lanes. The judge said Cougar Den Lounge is a stand-alone bar.
The citations were the first issued under the ordinance, and they were handed out four months ago to a manager and two employees.
“I’m very happy,” said Cougar Lanes manager Doris Martin as she left the courtroom. “I think it’s fair. It’s the way it should be.”
Martin was cited because she was the general manager and her employees were smoking inside the lounge of the bowling alley. Defense attorney Greg Scaglione argued that the bar of the bowling alley had its own bathrooms, exterior doors, air-conditioning system and doors that completely separated it from the rest of the bowling alley.
The prosecution argued that a service area that allowed the bartenders to serve both the bowling alley and the bar was enough to say the businesses were the same.
“I continue to believe this business should be smoke-free,” said activist Mark Welsch, who led the charge for Omaha’s no-smoking ban.
Martin said she plans to set the ashtrays back out in the bar area of her business.
Welsch said he plans to go back to Cougar Lanes.
“I will go there again and file another complaint with the police, because I don’t think that this is right,” Welsch said.
If the state loses in a trial like this, it is not allowed to appeal.
The city ordinance states that smoke must infiltrate the business, so Welsch said he plans to go back to see if that is happening. He said he already knows that it is.
The judge noted that the language of the ordinance was its major weakness by saying smoke must infiltrate, not whether it could or would infiltrate.
Douglas County 911 Director Mark Conrey said dispatchers haven’t received a significant number of calls on the ban since it was enacted on Oct. 1. There have been 23 incidents reported to 911.

Judge Upholds Terms of Smoking Ban
March 12, 2007
Court rejects constitutional challenge
A provision that exempts certain businesses from Omaha’s smoking ban has been upheld by a Douglas County District judge.
Judge John Hartigan on Thursday ruled against Marylebone Tavern co-owner Michelle Hug, who contended in a lawsuit against the city of Omaha that the smoking ban violates the Nebraska Constitution by creating special privileges to a class.
The smoking ban passed last year by the City Council allows a five-year grace period for bars that don’t serve food, for keno parlors and for Horsemen’s Park, a horse track.
The Marylebone operates as a restaurant and as a bar, with a wide array of menu items. Under the ban, patrons cannot smoke there.
But for the next five years, customers will be able to smoke at nearby businesses that don’t serve food or that have a keno license.
Hug argued that the ordinance creates an arbitrary classification between those businesses regulated by the smoking ban and those businesses temporarily exempted.
Hartigan ruled that it is within the council’s right to phase in the smoking ban and within its purview to designate which businesses can be phased in.
Hug attorney K.C. Engdahl said he was surprised by the ruling.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, and we’ll be filing an appeal as soon as we can,” Engdahl said.
Hartigan wrote that the state constitution does not forbid classification of subjects for legislative purposes as long as the classification is “reasonable and not arbitrary.”
But Hug said there is no reason for distinguishing between the public gathering places where smoking is prohibited and those places that are exempt until 2011.
Hartigan ruled that Omaha successfully argued that the exempted businesses are substantially different from the regulated businesses.
“The exempted businesses have different clienteles and different relationships with smoking,” Hartigan wrote. “As to stand-alone bars, there is a ‘bar culture’ in which smoking accompanies the drinking of alcoholic beverages. The clientele of stand-alone bars without food is less likely to include children. … The same holds true for keno locations where the establishments must hold a liquor license, seldom serve food and are patronized by a great deal of smokers.”
Horsemen’s Park is exempt, Hartigan wrote, because it caters to gamblers and, thus, attracts a different, older clientele. And tobacco retail outlets are substantially different because they cater to those wishing to buy tobacco products and are less likely to include children, Hartigan wrote.
As to phasing in the ban, Hartigan wrote: “This two-step approach fulfills the ordinance’s stated purpose of prohibiting smoking in public gathering places and granting residents and visitors the right to breathe smoke-free air. It is not for this court to decide if the two-step approach is the best way to implement such a regulation.”

Smoking ban trial to begin in front of Criss Library upper entrance
December 08, 2006
Andrew Cumbee
The chancellor’s cabinet approved a preliminary smoking ban for the UNO library’s underpass walkway on Nov. 30.
In October, student government asked UNO students three questions about a possible smoking ban. All three designated specific areas on campus where the ban would be in effect. Of the choices, a ban on the upper level of the library’s south entrance garnered the most support, receiving 71 percent of the voters’ approval.
“It had been a platform campaign issue for me from the beginning,” said President/Regent Steve Massara about UNO’s anticipated smoking ban.
Massara and President/Regent-elect Alexander Williams submitted a proposal to UNO’s chancellor’s cabinet and the ban was approved.
The pilot period of the smoking ban is set to begin on Jan. 8 and will serve as a model for the rest of the semester to determine whether will continue and whether more designated non-smoking areas will be added. Proper signage and new receptacles will be in place to help students learn about the walkway ban.
Massara said that he knows there will be some backlash, but that’s expected.
“I know there will be problems, but it’s our job to address concerns from students,” Massara said. “To me, it’s a compromise. It is a semi-enclosed area. There’s been complaints [for] the last four years that I’ve been here from faculty, staff and students.”
At this time, it is unclear whether the future will bring a campus-wide ban or more designated smoking or non-smoking areas.
Interim Chancellor John Christensen thinks that the debate will continue for an unknown time.
“It seems to me not just to be a campus issue; this seems to be an issue that is being discussed in communities, about where or where not the public feels like smoking is appropriate or not appropriate. And so I would expect the campus is kind of a microcosm of the community, that those discussions will continue to take place on campus,” Christensen said.
While the trial period will determine how students react to the ban, whether it is accepted and whether it will continue, Massara thinks that the library’s underpass area needs to be smoke-free.
“Personally, and I love my cigars, but I feel smoking underneath that enclosed area is not in the best interest of the staff, faculty and students,” Massara said.

Smoking Ban Challenged – Lawsuit filed
27 Oct 2006
An Omaha businesswoman has filed a lawsuit claiming the Omaha City Council acted improperly when it crafted and adopted the city’s new smoking ban.
Katherine O’Connor, owner of O’Connor’s Irish Pub, claims in the lawsuit filed Friday that the council violated Nebraska open meetings law when some members met privately with groups advocating the ban.
The smoking ban went into effect Oct. 2 for establishments that serve food. Bars that don’t serve food, keno parlors and Horsemen’s Park track have five years to implement the ban.
O’Connor said Friday that the partial ban has hurt her business because patrons can go to a bar that still allows smoking.
Her lawsuit claims the council failed to file a public notice before councilmen Jim Suttle and Franklin Thompson met with groups that advocated the ban.
Their conversations were about city business and should have been disclosed under the open meetings law, the lawsuit contends.
City Attorney Paul Kratz said Friday the law applies only to meetings at which a majority of council members are present. Meetings attended by only two council members — in this case, Suttle and Thompson — are within the law, he said.
Messages left for Suttle and Thompson were not immediately returned Friday.
O’Connor’s lawsuit also alleges the City Council failed to make the entire proposed ordinance available to the public before it was adopted June 23.
Kratz said the ordinance was available for public comment and that many people took advantage of the opportunity.
The lawsuit is the second filed against Omaha’s smoking ban that O’Connor’s attorney, K.C. Engdahl, is handling.
“A bad law is a bad law,” Engdahl said Friday.
In the other lawsuit, Michelle Hugs, co-owner of the Marleybone Tavern, claims that the ban is unconstitutional because some businesses are given the privilege of allowing smoking while others are not.

Bar Owner Files Suit Over Smoking Ban
October 21, 2006
OMAHA, Neb. — An Omaha businesswoman filed a lawsuit claiming the City Council acted improperly when it crafted and adopted the city’s new smoking ban.
O’Connor, owner of O’Connor’s Irish Pub, claimed in the lawsuit that the council violated Nebraska open meetings laws when some members met with groups advocating the ban.
The smoking ban went into effect Oct. 2 for establishments that serve food.
O’Connor’s lawsuit claimed the City Council failed to file a public notice before councilmen Jim Suttle and Franklin Thompson met with groups that advocated the ban.
The lawsuit contends their conversations were about city business and should have been disclosed under the law.

Bar Owner Wants To Modify Challenge To Smoking Ban
October 15, 2006
OMAHA, Neb. — A Douglas County district judge doesn’t expect to rule on the challenge to Omaha’s smoking ban until January.
On Friday, a lawyer for the owner of the Marleybone Tavern argued that the ordinance is unconstitutional.
But District Judge John Hartigan agreed to give the city more time to build its defense. The next hearing is set for Jan. 11.
Under the ban, the Marleybone cannot allow smoking, but some competitors can. The city’s ban allows Keno parlors and bars that don’t serve food to continue permitting smoking.

Students, community members react to citywide partial smoking ban
October 04, 2006
Jordan Plagman
Omaha’s smoking ban, in effect yesterday, will be a drag for some.
The smoking ban, proposed in early 2005, passed on a 6 to 1 vote by the Omaha City Council.
Council members claimed the ban’s purpose is to protect employees and the public from harmful effects of second-hand smoke.
Any business serving food and alcohol throughout the city will be smoke-free, except for keno operators, stand-alone bars and Horseman’s Park, which have a five-year grace period to become smoke-free, according to the ban’s provisions.
Mayor Mike Fahey said he favored a complete ban on smoking, but the ban approved by the council was the best compromise. Fahey felt the partial ban eliminated the possibility of second-hand smoke in the majority of public places.
Crystal Cain, UNO junior, sees the ban as a positive effort to create a healthier environment for all.
“Look at all the statistics that say second-hand smoke is worse than first-hand,” Cain said. “Those who don’t smoke should be able to breath clean air. I don’t see anything wrong with the ban.”
Starting yesterday, smokers ticketed by police will face $100 fines for first offenses, $200 fines for second offenses and $500 fines for third offenses.
“The smoking ban is going to cost taxpayers more money,” said David Davis, UNO freshman. “There will be more littering around the city, like what happened in the city of Lincoln. Lincoln spent thousands on new street sweepers.”
Some neighborhood businesses, such as Travato’s in Dundee, started the ban early. However, not every business owner thinks the ban is fair.
The Marleybone Tavern, located at 3710 Leavenworth Street, attempted to fight the ordinance, arguing it was unconstitutional to make some places smoke-free and not others.
Douglas County Judge John Hartigan rejected an appeal for an injunction from the owner of the tavern. The ban’s opponents say more legal action is likely.

Some businesses vow to fight
Oct 4, 2006
Omaha’s smoking ban officially took effect on Monday. The ban includes most public places but there are some exceptions and there are businesses vowing to fight what they say are inequities in the law.
The Bohemian Cafe has been in the same family since the 1940s and the restaurant always allowed smoking.
Now that there’s no smoking, owner Bob Kapoun is concerned about his business. He’s worried his customers will go to places where they can light up.
Bars that don’t serve food, establishments with keno and Horsemen’s Park are immune from the ban for another five years.
Kapoun says, “It’s something you figure is going to come sooner or later but if they had done it across the board we wouldn’t have had problems with it. It’s the way they did it. It’s not fair to anyone.”
Crescent Moon owner Bill Baburek agrees. He’s not bothered by the ban, but the exceptions to the rule.
“I don’t have a problem with the smoking ban per se, but I wish they didn’t have as many exemptions. It sounds like the city really relied more on the fear of lost keno revenue,” Baburek said.
Baburek says smoking or not, he expects his loyal customers will continue to show up.

Tavern Asks Court To Stop Smoking Ban
September 11, 2006
An Omaha bar is asking a judge to temporarily lift the city’s smoke-free ordinance, saying it is unconstitutional to make some public places smoke-free and not others.
The current ordinance excludes keno parlors from the smoking ban.
A lawyer representing the Marylebone Tavern argued on Monday that it is unconstitutional to let some establishments off the hook while others must comply with the new ordinance.
“We basically agree with what Mayor (Mike) Fahey said back in January — if there’s going to be a ban, it ought to be across the board,” said Marylebone attorney K.C. Engdahl.
The president of an anti-smoking group also spoke on Monday.
“That’s the ultimate goal for (Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution) to protect everybody from secondhand smoke. But this law is a huge step in the right direction,” said GASP President Mark Welsch.
If the judge grants the Marylebone a temporary restraining order, other taverns are expected to ask for the same thing. The ruling is expected later this week.

This is a loss of freedom
July 16, 2006
I refer to the latest installment of abuse of power by Omaha’s supposed public servants and the smoking ban. I will revisit some recent events.
Because of the mayor’s and City Council’s fiscal irresponsibility, Omaha feels the need to conquer the little town to the west, Elkhorn, and usurp their control and funding, in order to increase Omaha’s tax base.
Because of poor test scores and fiscal irresponsibility Omaha Public Schools feel the need to dominate the smaller local school districts thus increasing the test score pool, which are higher than OPS, and increasing their monetary coffers.
Now our exalted public leaders are focusing on honest business owners and their clientele. The clientele that I am referring to are those individuals who partake of a completely legal substance, cigarettes. While I write this I am reminded of stories from a similar episode in America’s past, the early 1900s. It was known as Prohibition.
I cannot stress enough the harm that government is doing taking away the rights of the business owner to conduct his legal trade as he sees fit.
A definition for communism is as follows: “A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.
In other words, an authoritarian party, such as the mayor and City Council, claiming to progress towards a smoke-free environment, determines that since some people don’t use certain goods, namely cigarettes, no one should. Thus they take away your choice.
Make no mistake, this is not just about smoking, this is about control, this is about the loss of choice, this is about the loss of liberty, this is about the loss of freedom.
Randall A. Reichert

Mayor Says He Will Sign Smoking Ban Passed By Council
June 22, 2006
Omaha’s mayor Mike Fahey said he will sign a smoking ban for the city.
Fahey announced his decision during a news conference. He said he believes in a total smoking ban, but said it would not be practical at this time.
Fahey also said that a smoking ban is the best way to protect Omahans from secondhand smoke.
“(The) people of Omaha deserve a smoke-free environment and this legislation is the best available tool to get us there,” Fahey said.
The ordinance passed by the City Council on Tuesday would take affect in October, when all businesses, except tobacco-only retailers will have to be smoke free.
On Thursday, Fahey said the ordinance is for the “greater good” of Omaha.
The ordinance passed Tuesday provides a five-year exemption for stand-alone bars, businesses that offer keno, and Horsemen’s Park.
Smokers ticketed by police would be fined $100 for their first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for a third offense.
The business owners would get a warning the first time someone lit up a cigarette in their establishment. Then the fines advance for subsequent offenses.

Omaha Businesses Concerned Over Smoking Ban
June 21, 2006
OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha business owners are checking the rule books to see whether a new city smoking ban will affect them right away, or whether they will be an exception.
The Omaha City Council passed the smoking ban on Tuesday, which will eventually include 97 percent of Omaha businesses. Some, including City Councilman Frank Brown, wonder whether exemptions written into the law are creating an unfair playing field in the first five years of the law.
Steve Branecki owns the Lighthouse at 156th Street and West Maple Road. For the moment, his property has not been annexed by the city of Omaha, but it is right on the line, so Branecki is following developments as the city’s smoking ban is interpreted. For the moment, the Lighthouse can let customers light up, while some bars across the street in the city limits won’t be able to.
“As a bar owner, it plays a lot of impact on our clientele and our business,” Branecki said. “I’d like to think it would help us out a little bit, but I don’t think it’s fair to be separating anything in that fashion.”
The Phoenix Food and Spirits is inside the city at 120th and Blondo streets. Bar manager Darrel Brisby said he believes the Phoenix falls into an exemption for the moment because it offers keno, and keno parlors have five years to comply.
Still, Brisby said, a clear-cut law for everyone would be preferable.
“It’s like, if they’re going to do this, do it across the board, across the state. Make everybody suffer the same consequences,” Brisby said.
There are 160 other keno outlets in Omaha.
Neither Brisby nor Branecki said they support a ban.
“If they don’t like someplace with smoking, then why go there, go somewhere else that has it,” Brisby said.
“I think the majority of people are nonsmokers, but 40 percent of bar people are smokers,” Branecki said. “If I lose 40 percent of my business, I don’t have a business.”
Other exemptions include bars that do not serve food and Horseman’s Park. Those, too, have to be smoke-free in five years.
City Clerk Buster Brown said businesses can’t add keno in order to skirt the law. If the business didn’t have it before June 8, they must comply with the smoking ban when it goes into effect. There were about a dozen businesses that signed up right before the deadline, Brown said.
The ordinance establishes penalties for those who would violate the smoking ordinance. Smokers ticketed by Omaha police would be fined $100 on their first offense, $200 on the second offense and $500 if he or she is caught smoking a third time.
A business owner would get a warning the first time somebody lit up in his or her establishment, then the fines advance from $100 to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Mayor Mike Fahey has yet to announce whether he will veto or sign the ordinance. Chief of Staff Paul Landow said that the mayor met with members of the Omaha Medical Society on Wednesday. He will not announce a decision until Thursday at the earliest.

City Council Passes Smoking-Ban Compromise
June 20, 2006
A compromise smoking ban was passed by the Omaha City Council on Tuesday with a 6-1 vote.
A proposal was introduced that would give bar owners and keno operators almost five years to phase out smoking. Sponsor Councilman Franklin Thompson said the city’s keno contract runs through 2011.
Two groups are currently circulating competing petitions to put a smoking ban on the ballot, and one to put a ban on a smoking ban will be withdrawn. Mark Welsch of the Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution said he would withdraw his ban petition and the organizer of the competing ban, Mike Kelly, told the council he would also withdraw his petition.
Jim Vokal, who supported a total ban previously, said he would vote for the compromise smoking because it is a start toward making Omaha smoke free.
“I’ve always been supportive of a total ban. This gets us there in five years,” Vokal said. “Currently, we have nothing. We do not have four council members that support a total ban on this issue. The petition may or may not pass. I think the majority of the public is behind a ban. I encourage those people who don’t think this is strong enough to (work with the Legislature for a statewise ban).”
The vote will make smoking illegal in almost every public place, with the exceptions of stand-alone bars, Horseman’s Park and places where keno is offered. Those businesses will have to comply within five years. Businesses not covered by the grace period have until Oct. 2 to comply.
Council President Dan Welch was the only member to oppose it.
Mayor Mike Fahey will now decide whether to veto the ordinance. His office said on Tuesday that he’ll meet with members of the Omaha Medical Society on Wednesday afternoon before making his decision. Fahey has said he supports a smoking ban for all businesses.

Smoking Ban
City Council considering plan
June 6, 2006
The Omaha City Council is considering passing a smoking ban in the city and it has some bar owners upset about losing business. Jeff Lampe, owner of McFly’s does not want anyone telling him how to run his business.
“I have a hard time for the government to come and set perimeters for something that is legal,” said Lampe.
City Councilman Franklin Thompson says that Omaha needs to take action.
“I really believe the petition initiative by G.A.S.P. will get on the ballot in November and it will win big,” said Thompson.
If approved, the citizen’s group petition would eventually lead to a total smoking ban.
Thompson’s plan would allow for smoking in tobacco retailers and it would give businesses a five year grace period versus a two year grace period.
“It would be better if our City Council would protect children and employees then what’s perceived as the interest of business,” said Mark Welsch, G.A.S.P.
Welsch, member of the “Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution” says even though the city councilman is making a move, he plans to go ahead with the petition drive.
Jeff Lampe is already planning to lose the fight because McFly’s serves food, therefore the bar and restaurant would not be considered for the grace period under the city’s plan. His customers may end up in a different establishment.
“If they really wanted to address the smoking issue, do it across the board, either make it legal or not,” said Lampe.
A partial ban was passed last year but the Mayor vetoed it because he favors a total ban.
The City Council will bring it up Tuesday and if passed, it would go into effect in October.
The G.A.S.P. petition deadline is July 11th and organizers say they expect to get enough signatures. There is also another petition that allows for business owners to make their own decision about smoking.

Smoking Ban Clash
3 May 2006
Tempers flared and swords crossed in a contentious debate Wednesday morning. An argument preceded a news conference on a smoking ban.
Citizens for a Smoke-Free Omaha is behind a petition drive to place the issue on the November election ballot.
The owner of Big John’s Billiards confronted petition organizers angry that a similar smoking ban passed by Lincoln voters forced his capital city location to close.
The exchange was mainly between Will Prout of Big John’s and petition organizer Mike Salkin
“Why close down my business?” Prout asked.
Salkin told him, “You’re closing it down because you’re ignoring an economic reality.”
“I’m closing it down because I didn’t get $84,000 out of my business last year,” Prout told him. “That’s a good reason to close it down.”
“Maybe you need to rethink your business strategy,” Salkin said.
Prout shot back, “How much are you putting in for employment? How much are you putting in for taxes? Who the hell are you, huh?”
The group needs more than 9,000 signatures to land on the ballot.
The goal is an across-the-board smoking ban in Omaha businesses. The only business sunsets in the proposal ordinance would be stand-alone bars without kitchens that will have two years to come up with a different smoke-free business model or close.

Citizens For a Smoke-Free Omaha

News Release – For Immediate Release

Omaha’s Smoke-Free Petition Language Given to City Clerk

Contact: Mark Welsch 402-558-0463
Mike Salkin 402-660-6453

Omaha, NE, USA, Thursday, April 20, 2006 – Today, Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 10:30a.m. the “Citizens For a Smoke-Free Omaha” Ballot Question Committee announced the launching of their effort to place a smoke-free worksite ordinance, for the City of Omaha, on the November 2006 ballot. Citizens “For a Smoke-Free Omaha” presented proposed ordinance language to the Omaha City Clerk, Buster Brown, to be converted into a petition. Approximately 9,325 valid signatures are needed on the petitions by the first week of July in order to put the issue before the people on the November 2006 ballot, if the Omaha City Council does not enact the Ordinance.
“First and foremost, this is a health issue,” said Dr. Reed Peters, one of the organizers of “Citizens For a Smoke-Free Omaha”. He continued, “As a physician I feel an obligation to do all I can to protect people from secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is not just an inconvenience, it causes death and disease in non-smokers, including heart attacks, strokes, asthma and cancer.”
Mike Salkin, another organizer of “Citizens For a Smoke-Free Omaha” said, “461 cities and counties in 33 states, plus 13 states have comprehensive smoke-free laws. Many scientific studies have been done, using sales tax receipts from bars and restaurants in smoke-free communities. All of them have shown that smoke-free laws improve, or worse case scenario, do not change the overall income of bars or restaurants. Other cities and states, including California, Montana, Chicago and Washington DC, also incorporated a sunset clause for some businesses in their laws.”
Mark Welsch, the final organizer of “Citizens For a Smoke-Free Omaha”, to speak today said, “Under the ‘Citizens For a Smoke-Free Omaha’ proposed smoke-free ordinance, over 98% of all businesses in Omaha will be smoke-free on January 2, 2007. The only exceptions will be private residences, except when used as a licensed childcare, an adult day care or a health care facility, up to 20% of hotel and motel rooms, private and semiprivate rooms in nursing homes and long-term care facilities when occupied by only smokers, medical research facilities studying effects of smoking and some stand-alone bars. There is a two-year sunset clause for stand-alone bars. The sunset clause applies to only those stand-alone bars without kitchens that do not allow minors into their buildings. This ordinance should increase, or at least not change, Keno revenue for the City of Omaha, because about half of the Keno locations are bars and half are restaurants. Many nonsmokers will probably start playing or play more Keno because they won’t be forced to breathe secondhand smoke in all of the Keno locations. For two years, the smokers will continue to be able to smoke in stand-alone bars with Keno. There are approximately 225 stand-alone bars in Omaha. The bar phase-in is included in the petition Ordinance as a way for those businesses to adapt their business plans to encourage nonsmokers, who have stopped going to their businesses, to return. If a bar is a place where families take their children, they should not allow smoking.”

Related information may be found at: – GASP’s website – includes a clickable link so people can tell us if they want to help with the petition drive in Omaha. They do not have to be an Omaha resident to help. – ANR’s list of Municipalities with Local 100% Smokefree Laws.

In January of 2005, the Omaha City Council passed an ordinance, which restricted smoking in over 98% of Omaha businesses. Mayor Mike Fahey vetoed the ordinance on February 1 on the grounds that not all businesses would be included. The council did not override his veto.

Good News Service sent this message. 402-558-0463

Omaha defers on its smoke ban

BY NANCY HICKS / Lincoln Journal Star

Omaha’s smoking ban proposal has been moved from the main track to a siding, where it may remain for weeks or months.

The Omaha City Council Tuesday refused to approve a total smoking ban and tabled a partial ban that would have allowed smoking in bars that had no food service.

“They didn’t kill it; they opted to do nothing,” said Dave Holmquist, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society in Nebraska.

But the issue will be back, promised City Councilman Marc Kraft, who brought the ban proposal to the council.

“It might be December or February. And if it fails at that time, we will be back with the new council (after spring elections),” he said.

“This is a setback and not a defeat. The issue is still alive,” said Holmquist, who works with the tobacco-free groups that have promoted total smoking bans in several Nebraska cities.

“I think eventually Omaha will go for a total ban. And I think the voters of Lincoln will vote for a total ban,” Holmquist said about Lincoln’s pending citywide vote.

Lincoln bar and restaurant owners mounted a successful petition drive to put the issue to a public vote after the city council approved a complete smoking ban.

Lincoln voters will decide between a total ban and a partial ban that would allow smoking in businesses where food makes up less than 60 percent of total sales.

“I think Lincoln has the opportunity to establish the framework for smoke-free communities in the state of Nebraska,” Holmquist said.

Anti-smoking advocates have been working in five Nebraska communities this year to promote total smoking bans. Lincoln is the only city where a council approved any kind of ban.

The Grand Island City Council agreed only to study the issue, and the Bellevue council is waiting for a statewide ban through the Legislature. A Cass County coalition is educating the public and Plattsmouth council members about the dangers of secondhand smoke and the need for smoking ban.

The Omaha council last week approved a resolution that asks the Legislature to set a statewide standard. Currently, cities can have smoking bans that are stricter that state law, which requires no-smoking areas in most restaurants and many bars.

Omaha smoke-free advocates will continue to work for a complete ban, said Molly Goedeker, coordinator for Smoke Free Omaha.

“We are going to move forward. It will be before the City Council again before the city’s elections next spring,” she said.

Mayor Vetoes Smoking Ban
Fahey Wants Complete Ban Or Nothing

January 31, 2005
OMAHA, Neb. — Mayor Mike Fahey Monday vetoed a smoking ban for the city of Omaha.

The council voted 4-3 Tuesday to approve a smoking ban. Bars that don’t serve food, keno parlors, Horseman’s Park and VFW and American Legion halls would be exempt from the ban.

“It does not create a level playing field,” Fahey said, duruing Monday morning ceremony.

Fahey vetoed the partial ban, saying he can only support a total ban.

“I’ve always been in favor of that,” Fahey said. “I think it’s the right thing to do and I’m hoping one day we’ll either do it through a city ordinance or or as a state initiative. This ordinance fails to protect the public health because it allows smoking in several hundred establishments.”

The council needs five votes to override a veto. Councilman Mark Welch and Jim Vokal have said they will not change their votes. Councilman Chuck Sigerson also said he won’t change his vote.

Mike Wadum worked to create a smoking ban for Omaha. He said the May elections may give some indication what the voters want the city to do.

Fahey said he hopes the answer comes sooner from the City Council.

“I’m hoping they’ll reconsider this and pass a total ban. If they do, I’ll support it,” the mayor said.

  • January 31, 2005: Welch, Vokal Won’t Change Smoking Ban Vote
  • January 26, 2005: Smoking Ban Could Go To Petition
  • January 26, 2005: Omaha Hot Over Smoking Ban
  • January 25, 2005: Omaha Council Passes Smoking Ban
  • January 21, 2005: Bill Could Overturn Lincoln Smoking Ban, Omaha Proposal

  • Fahey poised to veto partial smoking ban

    Omaha’s partial smoking ban will go up in smoke at 10 a.m. Monday.

    That’s when Mayor Mike Fahey, who wanted a full smoking ban or none at all, will sign his veto of last week’s City Council action.

    The council approved a ban on smoking in public places – except in stand-alone bars, places holding keno licenses, Horseman’s Park and places such as veterans halls.

    The ban passed on a 4-3 vote. A fifth vote would be needed to override Fahey’s veto.
    – Jeffrey Robb
    January 29, 2005;_pg=1636&u;_sid=1322854

    NE: Statewide smoking ban could be next.

    NE: Omaha. Health Board Approves Smoking Ban. Public Hearing Set For Aug. 17

    Possible smoking ban stirs up variety of reactions from patrons.

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