OPED: Council’s consensus disappoints member of citizen smoking panel
SUBMITTED BY: Jennifer Merriman, RN, Lakewood
In 2009, I was appointed to serve voluntarily on the City of Lakewood’s Mayoral Ad Hoc Committee to address the effects of secondhand smoke in the community and to make recommendations to City Council for a future ordinance. I cannot effectively express my disappointment/frustration in our Lakewood City Council on Monday evening.
Not only did they completely ignore the many findings and recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee (it was so obvious that this is all political), but also the voice of Councilor Tom Quinn, the Mayor-appointed Chair of that committee. He was the only Councilperson willing to be held accountable for his votes on each recommendation, while all of the others hid their thumbs up/thumbs down behind the desk so that the audience, in person and on television, could not see who was supportive vs. not supportive of each of the recommendations.
This Council’s commitment to transparency is completely non-existent!
I’d like to point out a few excerpts from the Council’s own website on their commitment to citizens:
The Lakewood City Council will:
• Act with honesty and integrity to communicate openly;
• Promote an inclusive environment for all citizens;
Core Community Values:
• Safe Community
• Open and Honest Communication
• Education and Information
• Quality Living Environment
The partial approvals of only some of the recommendations were not worth my personal commitment of almost one year to this Ad Hoc Committee! This year (and the following years) consisted of monthly meetings, numerous emails and phone calls, rearrangement of my schedule and hours of researching and calling our neighboring cities’ businesses with stronger smoke-free laws. It was my hope that I could do something worthwhile for the community. I feel as though my two years of time, energy and efforts to make Lakewood a healthier place to live have been totally discounted.
It seems obvious to me that Council members have not been touched by anyone with tobacco-related diseases or conditions such as lung cancer, COPD, heart disease or any other respiratory conditions. It is also obvious that they did not take to heart the consensus of the public opinions done with surveys and letters and numerous face-to-face meetings with community members.
The interests of a handful of tobacco businesses, who take advantage of existing exemptions of the law allowing smoking indoors, were held above those of adjoining non-tobacco businesses who are dramatically affected by the drifting secondhand smoke. Smoke exposure in these non-tobacco workplaces has caused illness to employees and ongoing customer complaints. Some employees would have to quit their jobs in order to protect their health.
I spent years as a public health nurse, and it is widely known that HVAC air filtration systems have proven to be inadequate in dispelling smoke from adjoining spaces. I have heard from one business that adjoins a cigar bar that allows smoking, and the smoke that seeps into his business severely affects an employee’s asthma condition and has resulted in numerous customer complaints. The business owner is considering relocating to Golden where smoking is not allowed inside any business.
A big “Thank You” to Councilor Quinn, whose leadership toward a healthier, more attractive community was exemplary. I wish I felt as good about the rest of our City’s leadership.