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Voters to decide on smoking in public

BRECKENRIDGE – Voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to allow county commissioners to ban smoking in public places – including bars and restaurants – in Summit County.

County commissioners approved a resolution Monday to put the question on the ballot. They also approved a resolution to let voters decide whether to extend a mill levy with new goals of supporting health care, recycling, a water storage project and parks.

Noticeably absent was discussion about asking voters to eliminate term limits for some positions, including sheriff, treasurer, assessor, coroner and clerk and recorder.



At the county level, Assessor Denise Steiskal, Clerk and Recorder Cheri Brunvand, Treasurer Larry Gilliland and Sheriff Joe Morales will lose their jobs in 2006.

Those four discussed the issue with the Board of County Commissioners last week. Terms are limited to three.



“There was never a formal document saying, “Per all of us, please put this on the ballot,'” Morales said. “It was just a discussion; our regular monthly meeting.”

The term-limits question could reappear in the 2004 and 2005 elections.

Term limits might be here to stay, but smoking in public places could be on the way out.

Yet, even that is a long way from reality, noted Laurie Blackwell, tobacco prevention coordinator for the Summit Prevention Alliance, which has worked with SmokeFree Summit to bring the issue to the voters.

First, she noted, the ballot question is merely advisory. If it passes, then county commissioners will hold public hearings to hear testimony on what should be in the ordinance. Once the details are agreed upon, there will be two public hearings and if the county commissioners agree to pass the ordinance, it won’t take effect for three to six months.

What’s more, the vote only applies to where the county commissioners can make such a ban – unincorporated Summit County, an area that includes the resorts of Copper and Keystone.

While voters in the incorporated towns can have their say, the question does not apply to their town councils. It will be a straw vote, however, that could guide town politics.

The towns could react as soon as the spring election cycle.

Many restaurateurs fear the county ban would give towns an unfair advantage. Smokers, they contend, will then take their business to towns where smoking is still allowed.

If the ban is approved countywide, county commissioners would not implement it until after the towns have had a chance to hold their elections, Blackwell said.

“It (a countywide ban) does not mean Summit County will go smoke-free,” she said. “There’s this misconception that after the election – boom – the county is smoke-free six months before the rest (towns). That’s not true. That’s not in anybody’s best interests.”

If voters approve the ban in the county, and then later in each of the towns, the entire county, including its towns, would go smoke-free on a date that would be established by the county commissioners.

Until the spring elections, SmokeFree Summit members plan to give presentations and informational packets to the town councils and encourage them to consider putting a smoking ban referendum on their ballots.

The biggest struggle, said smoking ban proponent Doug Malkan of Breckenridge, is the work involved in educating restaurateurs, elected officials and others.

Restaurateurs fear they will lose business, some smokers don’t want to have to go outside to smoke and still others don’t like the idea of government telling private business owners what to do.

Proponents of the ban cite the dangers of second-hand smoke to nonsmokers – particularly employees – in a bar and restaurant setting.

“We’re working within the system,” he said of the group’s efforts to get the referendum on the ballot. “It’s a lot of legwork, but we think it’s worth it.”

Mill levy would find new uses

Voters also will decide whether to extend an open space and capital improvement mill levy established in 1986 to build the justice center in Breckenridge. Voters approved an extension of the mill levy again in 1993 to build the County Commons and fund open space purchases.

If voters approve it again, funds could go toward a community health care facility, improved recycling facilities at the landfill, a water project and parks.

Ballot questions have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to be certified for placement on the Nov. 4 ballot. Between state and local issues, Summit County voters will have a lot to decide, ranging from video gambling to allocating money for water storage projects.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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