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Medora smoking policy to be introduced

MEDORA -- Mayor Doug Ellison wants to minimize smoking in Medora, but some residents say he should butt out.

Ellison, a nonsmoker, recently sent a letter to city council members, proposing they pass an antismoking ordinance. His proposal would ban smoking on city property -- including streets and sidewalks -- and in bars.

"The momentum is building for towns to do this and I just think it's a good thing to do and I think Medora should help lead the way," Ellison said. "I'm just introducing it to the council and urging them to adopt it."

Ellison cited health concerns of second-hand smoke and city beautification efforts as reasons to adopt an anti-smoking policy.

"I've been thinking about doing this for awhile," Ellison said. "Most of the people I've talked to are very supportive and in favor of it."

However, Olie Goldberg, who owns the Knotty Pine Peanut Bar as well as other businesses in the area, says such an ordinance infringes on his rights.

"I don't believe the government has the right to tell us what the hell to do with our business and our lives," Goldberg said. "I'm totally against it."

Goldberg is a smoker and is the former mayor of Medora.

"I'll have to run for mayor again and revoke that whole deal, I guess," Goldberg said.

Three alcohol-serving establishments in Medora allow smoking, Ellison said.

The ordinance would allow people to smoke on private property, in or on their vehicles and on outdoor commercial property -- if the business owner so chooses.

Ellison said a small fine would likely be imposed to those who violate the proposed ordinance.

Goldberg fears such an ordinance would have adverse affects on his business.

"These tourists don't know what our rules and regulations are," Goldberg said, adding an antismoking ordinance will drive them away.

Ellison doesn't believe it will take business away from local bars.

"There's no long-term adverse effect," Ellison said.

Colin Madzo, a smoker who lives in Medora, is also against the proposed ordinance.

"What's the difference of smoking on top of you're Subaru on the street or one foot away from you're Subaru... it's still going in the air," Madzo said.

Ellison said such an ordinance would be difficult to enforce, but said it's worth the effort.

"It is somewhat unusual, but it is a possibility that the city could do that," said Matt Kolling, Medora city attorney.

Jay Brovold, Billings County state's attorney agreed the ordinance would be enforceable, but said it shouldn't affect him.

"Personally, I couldn't care less," he said.

The city has jurisdiction over public streets, Kolling said.

"To the best of my knowledge, we would be the first one in North Dakota to enact such an ordinance, but other cities around the country have done it," Kolling said.

John Bey, Medora police chief, hopes enforcement will be a gradual process if the ordinance is adopted.

"I'd like to think we could go through some education and make it a fairly gentle transition period," Bey said.

Ellison has a similar point of view and said signage on public property stating the law would be a good idea.

"My intention is that we will not go out of our way to make life difficult to smokers," Ellison said.

The ordinance would require two readings by the city council and time for public input, Ellison said. He intends to have the first reading of the ordinance at the Oct. 5 city council meeting.

"It'll be an interesting debate, I think," he added.

Medora city council members were either unavailable or declined comment Wednesday.­