Waukegan moves to enforce smoking law

A divided City Council voted last week to authorize Waukegan police officers to issue tickets to individuals who smoke cigarettes within 15 feet of a building’s entrance.  |  File
A divided City Council voted last week to authorize Waukegan police officers to issue tickets to individuals who smoke cigarettes within 15 feet of a building’s entrance. | File

Despite objections from aldermen expressing concern about such things as governmental overreach, a divided City Council voted last week to authorize Waukegan police officers to issue tickets to individuals who smoke cigarettes within 15 feet of a building’s entrance.

The measure aims to close a loophole in local ordinances that relate to the 2008 Smoke-Free Illinois Act, giving officers the authority to write citations that will be handled in city-run adjudication hearings.

According to city attorney Anne Linn, the tickets will fall into the category of general offenses, which come with a range of fines from $25 to $750. She added that the actual amount in individual cases would be determined by a hearing officer, saying a first offense likely would not exceed $200.

The arrangement was approved at the council’s Aug. 4 meeting by a 5-4 vote.

Fourth Ward Ald. Harold Beadling was among those lobbying against its passage, as he voiced objections to the Smoke-Free Illinois Act.

“We don’t have to follow any state laws. We don’t have to enforce it. I know that,” Beadling said. “This is ridiculous. I stand against it, and I urge everyone up here to vote ‘no’ on this because it serves absolutely no purpose.”

In agreement was 6th Ward Ald. Larry TenPas, who said, “we’ve got better stuff for a policeman to do than worry about if you’re smoking in front of a bar.

“We make so many laws that just don’t make sense. Law after law after law,” TenPas added. “I don’t smoke. I don’t like smoking. I did really like when they stopped smoking inside the bar, because I used to come home and smell kind of stinky from all that smoke. But now we kicked them outside and [say] you have to be 15 feet away. I suppose we have to go outside and measure. Most people stay away from the doorway. They stay to the side. It’s another law that you really don’t need to spend money on.”

Third Ward Ald. Gregory Moisio said he understood the arguments offered by Beadling and TenPas, but he wanted the city to be in compliance with the state law.

“Sometimes we do over-govern. And there’s nothing like smoking to start a debate,” Moisio said. “But it is a state law. It’s another tool in a police officer’s tool box that they can use when needed.

“I believe the majority of our police officers to use this in their discretion when they have to. I don’t know that they’re going to go out looking for this. They have a lot or other things to look for other than people smoking 15 feet from a door.”

In a memo to aldermen, the city’s corporation counsel, Steve Martin, wrote that enacting a local-enforcement provision “will allow the Neighborhood Policing Unit, in particular, to write citations for those who smoke less than 15 feet from the entrance to businesses, restaurants, and the like, which is a problem especially in our downtown area.”

Martin added that officers “see this as a way to help improve the environment for pedestrians, those in outdoor dining areas, and the like.”

Beadling questioned whether enforcement will drive consumers away from the city.

“I would prefer the Neighborhood Policing Unit start writing tickets for loud music in cars, [or] mufflers or lack thereof in cars. These are really quality-of-life issues,” Beadling said. “We’re going to put a hurt on all the bars downtown, because the customers will have to stand out on the street or go somewhere else or they’ll just stop coming down there. We can close everything downtown.”

Seventh Ward Ald. Lisa May was among those voting for the measure, saying, “personally, I’d rather see the ticket being written when they flick the butt into the street, because there it sits, or on the beach or wherever.”

In the end, May was joined by Moisio and aldermen Thomas Koncan Jr. (2nd Ward), Edith Newsome (5th) and William Valko (8th) in supporting the amendment. Joining Beadling and TenPas in voting against it were aldermen Sam Cunningham (1st) and Rafael Rivera (9th).

15 Comments

  • Globally, Philip Morris is a smoking buy

    […] Waukegan moves to enforce smoking law Despite objections from aldermen expressing concern about such things as governmental overreach, a divided City Council voted last week to authorize Waukegan police officers to issue tickets to individuals who smoke cigarettes within 15 feet of a … Read more on Lake County News Sun […]

    2014-08-13 11:19:02 | Reply
  • Robin Stazak

    Waukegan City council is completely incompetent when it comes to real problem solving.. therefore they fall back on BS like this.

    2014-08-12 23:01:14 | Reply
  • John

    All it is is probable cause to search u question u and anybody who's around u...beware Waukegan big brother has come to town!!!!

    2014-08-12 21:16:00 | Reply
  • Calvin Beecher

    How about giving people tickets for dog poop droppings. How about the police help reduce real crime.

    2014-08-12 14:57:42 | Reply
  • fisherking

    Hey let's start with Traffic and Motor Vehicles!!! Would it be wonderful to know you are surrounded in traffic by qualified legal drivers, driving quality safe vehicles, where passengers and other drivers are able commute in confidence instead of fear ... I would be so impressed!!!

    2014-08-12 12:45:40 | Reply
  • PRW

    It is about time. New Laws are made constantly but never enforced. THAT is a waste of Tax dollars. 2nd hand smoke is a killer.

    2014-08-12 10:58:24 | Reply
  • donaldo batiste

    Another tool to harass folks. Cant smoke here let me check for warrants.Wait to winter nobody is going to stand 15ft outside in the elements.

    2014-08-12 07:58:46 | Reply
  • DT

    A bad situation is in the make ti happen. Its sad when government officials take there temporary elected positions overboard. There are more serious issues in Waukegan that's beefs to be address. You Think????

    2014-08-12 04:01:16 | Reply
  • Mr. B

    "Another tool in the officer's tool box". That is a absolutely ridiculous statement. At the end of the day, it's all about a buck.

    2014-08-11 22:03:24 | Reply
  • ET

    all laws should be enforced period..

    2014-08-11 19:58:41 | Reply
  • art vandalay

    Ya right

    2014-08-11 18:36:38 | Reply
  • Ex-Resident

    Waukegans, such a clean, safe, law-abiding, city they have to go after cigarette smokers now?

    2014-08-11 18:07:41 | Reply
  • Kelly BeL

    What a waste of my tax dollars!!!

    2014-08-11 17:14:31 | Reply
  • JC

    There are so many more important issues for WPD to resolve in Waukegan. This shows overeaching by the goverment. The alderman should be working to on important problems.

    2014-08-11 17:06:11 | Reply
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