Elorza: City Council shouldn’t override veto on ‘inhumane and flawed’ smoking ban

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said Wednesday it is “discouraging” to hear that City Council members are considering overriding his veto of an ordinance that would ban smoking in parts of downtown.

The City Council has already taken two votes approving the proposal, which would prohibit the use of tobacco products in areas surrounding Kennedy Plaza and Burnside Park, where tobacco use is already prohibited. But Elorza vetoed the ordinance June 2.

Mayoral vetoes can be overridden with 10 votes on the City Council, and Acting Council President Sabina Matos confirmed the council will consider overruling the mayor on the matter at Thursday’s meeting.

“Aside from it being an inhumane and flawed philosophy towards addressing social issues, this ordinance will put an undue burden on our police force,” Elorza said. “This ordinance would be a waste of valuable police resources. It is bad policy that will prove difficult to enforce and it will be ineffective at addressing the real issue.  We have been successful in reducing crime city-wide in the past couple of years and I believe our officers should be focused on serious crime, not criminalizing poverty.”

The ordinance, which is supported by a group of downtown businessmen led by former Mayor Joseph Paolino, has been refined to ban smoking in a much smaller part of downtown. But critics claim the ordinance is designed to rid downtown of primarily low-income people who spend much of their days near the bus terminal or in Burnside Park.

Penalties for violating the ordinance would include a warning for the first offense followed by a $50 fine for each successive offense.

Continue the discussion on Facebook

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan