While West Hollywood City Council members have been considering such highly-publicized measures as boycotting Arizona due to its controversial immigration law and taking a stand against commercial whaling, some of those same politicians seem to be quietly pushing a wide-sweeping, anti-smoking agenda behind the scenes.
WeHo News reports that Steve Gallegos, a longtime and successful anti-smoking advocate, has big plans to ban outdoor smoking not only at West Hollywood's nightclubs and bars but in other public venues.
"We would like to stop smoking in all outdoor areas to
protect people," says Gallegos, according to WeHo News.
Gallegos also considers the proposed, and controversial, outdoor smoking ban at bars and nightclubs as a "first step" for more anti-smoking regulations in West Hollywood.
Why is Gallegos such a big deal?
He just happens to be Councilwoman Abbe Land's "representative" on the
West Hollywood Smoking Task Force, which is apparently trying to hammer
out a compromise between anti-smoking advocates
and disgruntled bar and nightclub owners.
Gallegos, in other
words, represents West Hollywood City Hall's anti-smoking faction, which
is made up of Mayor John Heilman and Councilman Jeff Prang.
Councilman John Duran is opposed to the outdoor smoking ban, and Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath still appears to be undecided.
So what Gallegos wants, politically powerful Heilman and Land most likely want it, too. Gallegos' remarks are a tip off that Heilman and crew aren't just interested in banning outdoor smoking at bars and nightclubs, but possibly all outdoor spaces in West Hollywood.
That may not go over well with city residents for a host of reasons.
A wide-sweeping smoking ban, for example, could be viewed as overreaching and invasive by West Hollywood's gay community, which is always wary of government intrusions. And bar and nightclub owners, who already complain of tough economic times, say an outdoor smoking ban would add to the hurt of their bottom lines.
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West Hollywood, which relies on much-needed tax revenue from its nightlife scene, would also probably feel the pinch. If so, it begs the question: What does Heilman, Land, and Prang have planned to make up the difference? More development of condos, hotels, and big chain stores?
Heilman, in particular, is known for rarely moving forward on something without a bigger plan. Is the "radical suburbanization" of West Hollywood, as former city planning commissioner John D'Amico calls it, his answer? Or is Heilman gambling that West Hollywood nightclub and bars won't be hurt by an outdoor smoking ban and therefore the city will be okay, too?
A lot of questions, and a lot of possibilities ... and here's one more. If an outdoor smoking ban (or bans) is passed to the displeasure of West Hollywood residents, will they hold Heilman, Land, and possibly Horvath accountable in 2011? That's the year all of them will be looking to retain their City Council seats.
Contract Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.