Archive for Sunday, April 25, 2004

Salina offers lesson on referendum

April 25, 2004


Salina's referendum in 2002 on a partial smoking ban provides Lawrence voters a glimpse of what such a campaign here might look like.

The Salina referendum came about after the Salina City Commission passed an ordinance banning smoking in restaurants between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. Smoking was allowed after 9 p.m.

Opponents of the ban collected more than 3,000 signatures on a protest petition to put a repeal measure on the ballot.

Then a knock-down drag-out campaign began.

"It was pretty bad. I don't believe I heard, nor did I talk to, anybody who was on the fence about the issue," said Don Merriman, Saline County clerk. "For about three months there, it was about all anybody was talking about."

He said groups that favored the ban, including one called Be Healthy Salina, spent $77,000 on the campaign; opponents spent nearly $9,000.

"That was quite a little bit of money to spend, in comparison to some of the other things we've had," Merriman said.

At the November 2002 election, proponents of the ban won: 8,968 to 6,246.

Angel Pooler, a cafe owner in Salina, spent $5,900 on the campaign to oppose the ban. She closed the cafe several months later, saying she had lost much of her smoking clientele, though she continues a catering business.

"Our sales went down by at least 40 percent from the day the ban went into effect to the day we closed," Pooler said. "I think it was horrible."

Merriman, though, says he enjoys having smoke-free dinners in Salina's restaurants.

"When you go into another town and they ask, 'Smoking or nonsmoking?' it kicks into my head that I'm not in Salina anymore," he said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.