Updated after the jump: A reformed Martinez says he supports last month's stringent smoking ban. Originally posted Nov. 30 at 5:42 p.m.
Yet another item on which reality-TV star and District 14 hopeful Rudy Martinez and the current L.A. City Council can disagree: smoking in public spaces.
Over at the City Maven, political watchdogs are jumping all over Martinez' dark history as a customer-pleasing restaurant honcho who wanted his diners to be able to light one up when they gosh-darn felt like it.
It appears Martinez served as spokesman/board member for the National Smokers Alliance, a '90s org (when else could such a thing have existed but the '90s) dedicated to fighting any and everything anti-smoke — on the dime of big-money tobacco.
Namely, Philip Morris USA. Yikes. Not a great skeleton of a bedfellow for a fledgling politician.
Though they're treating it as a scandal, this comes as no surprise. We can totally see Martinez with heels kicked up at his Marty's joint in Highland Park, suckin' back the fog of a vintage Cuban. He doesn't exactly look like the kind of guy who deprives himself of life's sweet sins — even at the cost of second-handing all over the lungs of nearby children.
One of the key state measures Martinez pushed during that time was Proposition 188, which would have bulldozed all local anti-smoking ordinances and instated a standard (read: lax) set of rules on business owners. His face was plastered all over the 'Yes' campaign. The Maven even pinned down one of the fliers.
Martinez must not have been quite as charming back in the day: Seventy percent of California voters swiftly kicked the prop to the curb in 1994, leaving city/county politicians to continue setting whatever guidelines they chose for restaurants, bars and office buildings under their jurisdiction.
Still, he kept pushing. The Maven writes:
Martinez also spoke out two nights before a state law took effect to prohibit smoking in bars, night clubs and gaming parlors.
In a PR Newswire release from Dec. 30, 1997, Martinez said: “This ban will have a tremendous impact on my restaurants and our employees. Who knows what my customers want better than I do? I should have the right to make these decisions.”
Since then, the City of L.A. has cracked down hard. In January, the council said: How dare you smoke in outdoor dining areas! Then, last month, Councilman Bernard Parks proposed a smoking ban for pretty much all public spaces.
Looks like Jose Huizar, Martinez' opponent, was absent the day the City Council voted (unanimously, of course) to send the ordinance to the City Attorney for some draftin'. But considering his allegiance to the council voting machine, we can guess Huizar hates cigarettes as much as the rest of 'em.
A spokesman for Parks said the anti-smoking ordinance probably won't be ready for official passage until early next year. We asked him if the council expected much resistance, what with all the smoky Hollywood clubs and grimy downtown dive bars it would gravely affect:
“We do expect that there will be some pushback from this,” Parks' rep, Dennis Gleason, told the Weekly. “But nationwide, L.A. has one of the highest rates of nonsmokers: 85 percent.”
Unless Martinez began attending D.A.R.E. seminars sometime in the last decade, we're thinking he might still side with the remaining 15 percent. We'd love to know how he might have voted on last month's extreme L.A. smoking ban, but he couldn't be reached for comment this afternoon. However, one of his campaign guys, George Gonzalez, has promised to have a written statement sent over by tonight.
Like we said — the whole thing's more amusing than infuriating. Mostly just another confirmation that Martinez is likely to go against the grain on feel-good council ordinances that screw over struggling L.A. businesses (a la plastic-bag ban). Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.
Above all: May the shit continue to storm!
Update: Martinez has had a change of heart since his days as a roarin'-'90s National Smokers Alliance advocate. His campaign manager says sorry for the late reply (the son of Riverside Police Chief and close friend to the candidate Sergio Diaz died yesterday), but here it is.
Turns out Martinez would have sided with the current council on this one. At the same time, he manages to win some points with business owners. Yeah — the guy's good.
“If I would have the opportunity to vote on Ordinance 181065, I would have voted to support banning smoking in outdoor patios,” reads Martinez' statement. “Views and social attitudes regarding smoking have changed over the past 16 years. I now understand the negative health impacts caused by second hand smoke. However, this does affect business owners and customers; and I believe the restaurant industry should have been more actively engaged by the City before making this decision. I fully support the ordinance and I will enforced [stet] it at all of my establishments.”