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Flood of Calls Won't Sink Smoking Ban, Officials Say


PASADENA — An organized telephone campaign to halt the city's restaurant smoking ban is too little too late, say members of the City Council who have fielded dozens of calls at their homes from irate smokers.

"It's usually somebody wheezing into the phone," said an amused Councilman Isaac Richard, the council's only smoker and the measure's most vociferous opponent. "I say, 'Why are you calling me? Call Bill Crowfoot.' "

Council members Crowfoot, Chris Holden, William Thomson and Mayor Rick Cole voted three weeks ago in favor of an amendment to the city's Clean Indoor Air ordinance, banning tobacco smoke in restaurants but exempting bars for a year.

A blizzard of phone calls has been unleashed on those four, as well as on Richard and Councilman William Paparian, in a campaign apparently orchestrated by a Sacramento-based nonprofit organization called Californians For Smokers' Rights.

None of the council members said they would be affected by the telephone calls against the restaurant smoking ban.

"I don't think it's the best way to lobby," Paparian said. "A well-reasoned, thoughtful letter goes a lot further than a flood of phone calls."

Robert Merrell, president of the smokers' rights organization, said the group sent mailers last week to smokers in Pasadena and sympathizers to the cause, urging them to call council members to protest the measure.

Anti-smoking activists say that Californians For Smokers' Rights is a suspected tobacco industry front group. Merrell denies that his organization recevies money from the tobacco industry.

The Pasadena smoking ban faces two more council votes before it goes into effect in late September or early October, city officials said.

A first reading was scheduled for Tuesday's council meeting but, because of a crowded agenda it was postponed until next week.

In a related development, City Atty. Victor Kaleta issued an opinion Tuesday, saying he had found that there was no Brown Act violation during the July 27 meeting at which the council gave preliminary approval to prohibiting restaurant smoking.

Two council members, Paparian and Richard, had charged that four of their colleagues--a quorum of the seven-member council--met in an anteroom during a break to hash out a compromise that would elicit a majority vote.

The state's Brown Act forbids private meetings by local legislative bodies except in specified situations.

But Kaleta found that there had not been a "meeting" in the anteroom, though Crowfoot, Holden, Nack and Cole had all been briefly together there, and that there was no "collective concurrence" before the vote.

Nack, an adamant anti-smoking proponent, voted against the measure because it continued to allow smoking in bars.

Thomson was not present in the anteroom and he was not consulted about how he would vote, Kaleta said.

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