City Council Approves New Smoking Ordinance
SAN ANGELO, TX – In an effort to ensure that children are not exposed to an unnecessary amount of cigarette smoke, the city council voted on and approved, the second reading of a city ordinance that will regulate where San Angelo residents can smoke in regards to city property.
The ordinance discussed during yesterday's meeting, has been in effect since 2011 and banned smoking in multiple public places, but it did not prevent smoking in areas such as public parks, where children constantly interact with members of their community. By changing the wording and amending the ordinance, the City hopes to protect the health of the communities children by limiting their exposure to second and third hand smoke.
In yesterday’s meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Carl White asked the city council to approve a new stipulation to allow the City to place signs reminding residents that smoking is not allowed within 50 feet of playgrounds, pavilions and other locations as selected by the Parks and Recreation Director. Other places such as the area around the Bosque and fenced in spaces like city swimming pools, will also require smokers to be at least 50 feet away to smoke. Smoking in certain areas of the city parks will be permitted, as well as at various areas around Lake Nasworthy.
The ordinance would cost an extra $800 to erect the numerous warning signs across city parks.
The ordinance passed, with a 5 to 1 vote, with Mayor Morrison expressing his discontent with this ordinance since its passing. One of the main concerns brought to the council's attention, was the new need for more police resources, in an already understaffed department, to enforce the new ordinance and to pursue those who violate the mandate.
As a concerned citizen and District Four candidate in the upcoming city council election, Chris Giroux, expressed that as a non-smoker he hates smoking in general but that it was everyone’s “God-given right if you want to kill yourself with a cigarette to do so." He further supported the Mayor’s position of allowing people to smoke outside without regulating this activity to the degree that the city already does.
City Council Member Marty Self pointed out to Giroux that “it is your God given right to kill yourself, you just cant do it on city property.” The changes to the ordinance were accepted by the majority and the new rule is expected to go into effect May 2nd, 2017 according to city records.
The council also heard from Lola Luthe, who until recently was the owner and driver of the Granny Shuttle. Luthe petitioned the council to uphold her appeal after the city denied renewing her City taxi permit. As Luthe addressed the council she told them about the hard work and dedication she had put into creating the Granny Shuttle just to make ends meets. According to her statement, she is a widow of a Vietnam War Veteran and had to fight 6 years to receive her husband’s pension after his passing. She argued that any allegations of her misconduct or complaints against her, had been brought out by competitors who "were jealous of her business thriving." Luthe further added, that her Granny Shuttle business is the preferred method of transportation for military personal that reside at the Goodfellow Air Force Base and sometimes even volunteers to transport them for free. Even though she is a diabetic, she told the council that she is not insulin dependent, and is adamant that her illness would not conflict with her ability to perform her job.
However, SAPD's Assistant Chief Robert Martinez took the podium to express the police department’s concern that there were several complaints regarding Mrs. Luthe’s driving. The Assistant Chief stated the department had received complaints that Luthe had driven in bar ditches while having passengers aboard as well as making obscene gestures. Martinez gave further examples of various complaints from the regional airport, the Chamber of Commerce and a forwarded complaint from an out of town visitor who had recently used the Granny Shuttle. Martinez told the council that Luthe had been called in on several occasions to discuss the complaints and that she had agreed make some changes to her services.
The SAPD decided to disregard the recent complaints against Luthe as Luthe’s permit expired on March 2nd of this year. Additionally, Martinez presented a video taken on GFAB grounds. The video showed Luthe driving the Granny Shuttle as she ran through the entrance gates. Her actions banned her from entering the Base's property again and she was charged with a federal fine, explained GFAB's Sergeant Karas. Martinez stated he called Luthe to address the incident at the base and explain to her why her permit renewal had been denied. Luthe argued that she had been waved in by the personal at the gate, but the video taken at the time of the incident appeared to show otherwise. She was later seen outside of the base waiting for passengers.
Additionally, Luthe allowed more passengers on van than deemed safe, which meant the Granny Shuttle did no have the correct number of seatbelts for the occupants of the car. Multiple other accounts stated that she would hand out cards that read “Don’t call your 1st sergeant, call me." Members of the Airport Police also expressed their concerns about the Granny Shuttle citing several minor traffic infractions and one occasion where they had to resort to temporarily restricting her access to the facility. She was also asked to stop soliciting after they found her business cards in the restrooms at the airport. Airlines, TSA and car rental agencies allegedly also provided complaints to the airport police stating Luthe approached them and asked that they direct all military personal to her shuttle.
After listening to both sides the council voted 6-0 in upholding the city’s decision to deny her renewal of her City Taxi permit.
For more information on yesterdays city council meeting please visit here.
The next city council meeting will be held on May 2, at 8:30 a.m. at the McNease Convention Center. As always, these meetings are free and open to the public.