The Riverside village board held the first of what will be many discussions about the possibility of instituting a village smoking ordinance at their meeting Monday night, with most trustees voicing their support for a local law to override a smoking ban recently passed by Cook County.
The county’s smoking ban, which was passed in March, is fairly comprehensive, prohibiting smoking in all indoor and outdoor public spaces and all places of employment. A provision in the law also stipulates that it will be enforced by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department when it goes into effect next March.
According to Village Manager Kathleen Rush, however, the county does provide municipalities the option of adopting their own local smoking ordinance, which would automatically override the county’s ban, regardless of its contents.
The majority of trustees expressed support for instituting such a law, mainly in order to shift enforcement power from the County Sheriff’s Department to Riverside police. Most agreed with Trustee Kevin Smith, who said he was uncomfortable with the idea of an outside police force being the sole enforcer of a law in the village.
He said he saw two possible situations developing out of such an arrangement: either the sheriff’s department won’t be present in the village at all, or it will be overly aggressive with its enforcement.
“We don’t want outside police agencies coming into the village and wreaking havoc without any official input from our police,” he said.
As for exactly how extensive a Riverside smoking ban would be, details remained very much up in the air. There seemed to be support for an indoor smoking ban, but some trustees questioned the necessity or practicality of banning it in outdoor public spaces.
“You can’t walk down the street in Riverside without going by a public park,” Trustee Candice Grace said. “Parks are everywhere. You’d have to stand right outside your home if you wanted to smoke outside. I think we ought to look at our unique circumstances.”
To that end, Rush said, Monday night’s discussion was just the first step in a larger debate the village is hoping to have over this issue. Board members and village staff will be meeting with the Riverside Chamber of Commerce on May 16 to gather business owners’ perspectives on a potential smoking ban.
An opportunity for the public to provide their input to the board is also being planned for the board’s June 5 meeting.