Almost Without a Word, Council Bans Bus Stop Smoking

Friday February 27, 2004

Those observers who believe in the old Thomas Jefferson adage that “the government is best which governs least” would have been tickled to death with Berkeley City Council last Tuesday night. The council managed to adjourn before 8 p.m., with the bulk of the hour-long meeting taken up by public comment. And if Councilmember Miriam Hawley had not stopped to ask a couple of questions about an off-street parking ordinance, the council would have gotten by without discussing a single item. 

The evening began with the cancellation of the 5 p.m. study session on future budget reduction impacts when a council quorum did not show up, and the building elevator broke down. The use of the elevator is necessary for disabled citizens to be able to reach the second-floor council chambers, where city council meetings are held. There were only three items up for discussion on the 7 p.m. meeting agenda. One of them—adding requirements for appeals from a Zoning Adjustments Board decision—immediately got moved to the non-discussion “consent” part of the agenda. A second item—a recommendation by the Citizens Humane Commission for changes in the city’s animal care budget—was pulled from the calendar by the city manager. And after Councilmember Hawley got her questions answered about the off-street parking ordinance, the council passed it unanimously on Hawley’s motion with no discussion. 

Still, even in the absence of talk, at least one item of citywide interest was passed at Tuesday’s meeting. The council passed, on first reading, an ordinance banning smoking within 20 feet of bus stops. Like many California cities, Berkeley already bans smoking in many public places, as well as within 20 feet of building entrances and air vents. Violation of the bus stop no-smoking ordinance will be an infraction, subject to fines from $100 for the first offense to $500 for multiple offenses within the same year.y