Thursday, January 12, 2006


Reading this story made me want to throw my computer.

All five members of the Howard County Council and County Executive James N. Robey have expressed support for a ban on smoking in the county's bars and restaurants.

But the ban has not been enacted because of a seemingly minor difference among the politicians about when the measure should take effect.

Robey (D) accelerated momentum this fall when he proposed a ban -- supported by two council members -- that would take effect in 2008.

The executive pledged last week to veto a bill, which ultimately passed on a 3 to 2 vote, that would allow smoking in eating and drinking establishments until 2010.

Now it appears there may be an opportunity for the council to meet in the middle. During the past week, a majority of County Council members said in interviews that they would back a ban that takes effect in three years. Robey also would probably support such a measure, his spokeswoman said.

Â…Council members Ken Ulman (D-West Columbia) and Guy Guzzone (D-Southeast County), who supported Robey's proposal for a ban by 2008, said last week they would also support a three-year phase-in.

"I would still do it as a compromise to get something done," Guzzone said. "But I don't particularly like it . . . I think it will take too long."

Â… When asked if he would vote for a three-year phased-in ban if it had enough votes to pass, Merdon said, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Â…Ulman said a smoking ban is the first bill he would introduce as county executive. He said he would propose a ban that takes effect within two years.

"I believe very strongly that the next County Council will embrace a strong public health bill," Ulman said. "To me this is an issue that is beyond politics or posturing. It's about public health."

Merdon said he thinks voters will respond to the role he played in assuring passage of the smoking ban last week with a four-year phase-in.

"I'm the only candidate for county executive that actually got smoking reform legislation passed," he said.
(sorry for the long excerpt).

This isn’t about public health anymore. Or business. Or anything but politics. And, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t stomach it.

The feigned willingness to "compromise." The hyperinflated, meaningless distinctions between the two sides. The posturing. The B.S. I’ve had enough of it; all of it. It's not about life and death at this point--even though the anti-smoking groups insist it is--it’s about petty, partisan, electoral politics at its worst.

You know it’s bad when the only one making sense is David Rakes.
"I'm not opposed to a three-year" phase-in, Rakes said. "We're talking about 12 months." 

Yes, 1 year. 12 months. 365 days.

To all the councilmen: Get over yourself and get something done.

Update: Looks like we're going into overtime...

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