Smoking ban task force meetings aren’t public

The decision won't get made in a smoke-filled room, but the task force drafting a new Minneapolis smoke-free ordinance is meeting behind closed doors.

The city-appointed group will have the last of three meetings Monday, July 19, 3-5 p.m. It will forward its report to the City Council for its July 23 meeting.

Rocco Forte, former fire chief now assistant city coordinator, chairs the task force and made the call to close the meetings.

"I want the people on the task force to be comfortable to say whatever they want to," he said. "They may not be [comfortable] with the press in the meetings."

The meeting's starting point was the comprehensive smoking ban proposed by City Councilmember Dean Zimmermann (6th Ward), Forte said. The group also discussed other possible language, looking at smoke-free ordinances from Minnesota's Olmstead County; Duluth; Madison, Wis.; Boston and New York.

Task force members could recommend a specific ordinance, or they could ask for more time, Forte said. He expressed confidence the group would have options for the Council by July 23.

Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, a task force member, said the county might create its own ordinance after the city vote. Some mayors have already requested that the county create a "level playing field" among area bars and restaurants, and Dorfman expects some city councils to pass resolutions to that effect.

"I suspect after the Minneapolis vote, we will bring some countywide measure to the board and see what happens," she said. "I don't know what it will look like yet."

The City Council charged the task force to "develop recommendations for an ordinance that would eliminate unwanted customer and employee exposure to secondhand smoke" in restaurants, nightclubs, coffeeshops and amusement venues.

The Minneapolis task force members are:

Councilmember Dean Zimmermann (6th Ward), who authored the original smoking- ban ordinance; Councilmember Robert Lilligren (8th Ward), who is considered a swing vote; Mayor R.T. Rybak (or designee); Dorfman.

Gretchen Musicant, Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support; Jack Davis, president of the Hennepin Medical Society; Kim Bartmann, owner, Bryant Lake Bowl 810 W. Lake St., and Caf/ Barbette, 1600 W. Lake St. (Bartmann has supported a citywide bar/restaurant smoking ban.)

Mike Jennings, owner of three Downtown bars and president of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA); Jeff Moritco, owner, Mayslacks Bar, 1428 NE 4th St.; Greg Ortale, president of the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association. All three have expressed concerns about a ban.

Joe and Bonnie Hesla, residents living near a bar who are of split opinion on the smoking ban; Jay Rykunyk of the Hotel, Entertainment and Restaurant Employees Union; Dr. Ed Ehlinger, director of the University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service; Corrine Ertz, a tobacco control advocate for the American Cancer Society and a designee from the Community Prevention Coalition.