Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How To Use Smokers To Help Pay Some Of The City's Bills

There are lots of folks out there who are using the Sierra Madre "Sin City" argument to defend smoking on the sidewalks of our quaint downtown shopping areas. The idea being that fine folks from around the San Gabriel Valley are coming here to lounge in front of some of our most sophisticated eateries because they are allowed to smoke while doing so. Something that they are not permitted to do in their own towns. And while it is sad to think that this might be the only reason they would come here to spend their money, I guess you have to take what you can get. Like it or not, we have become the willing refuge of choice for nicotine addicts.

Now it has been suggested by certain interested parties that if public outdoor smoking is a protected vice here because it is good for business, wouldn't allowing other equally interesting vices also improve the business climate in Sierra Madre? Outdoor drinking, slot machines, and soft drug use being some examples of the sorts of things that would bring lots of people and their business to our town. So why stop at cigarettes? If getting loaded in the beautiful outdoors is, as some would attempt to convince us, a form of liberty, then why not make Sierra Madre the greatest bastion of freedom in the entire Valley? I'm sure we would move a lot of merchandise if we did. If there is merit to the "sin city" argument, then business should boom, right?

However, that idea has yet to make it to any City Council agendas.

Now apparently some entrepreneurs here have become accustomed to the purported increased business smokers bring, and fear that restricting the enjoyment of tobacco products in our town would send them to the poorhouse. Their belief is that should we enact ordinances restricting the use of cigarettes downtown, there wouldn't be any reason for many of these people to come here. Which is a bit of a sad commentary on the marketing abilities of our Chamber of Commerce if you think about it.

Anyway, chances are pretty good that when the City Council meets on the 24th smoking restrictions will be voted into reality. And judging by some of the powerhouse medical testimony the pro-restriction people have lined up for that special evening, the heated arguments of Peter and his droogs are going to sound rather insignificant. Somehow I don't think that calling people "fascists" or "pompous stroller moms" is going to be quite nearly as impressive.

But in case the City Council does go south on this issue, there is a fallback position. And one that would help the City financially. Restaurants have long known that, if they put tables out front on the sidewalks, they increase the amount of people they can seat. And that some customers prefer the outdoor ambience. But did you know that they use our sidewalks for the very nominal fee of $334 per year? That's right, our taxes maintain them, but they reap the profits pretty much unscathed. And where exactly is all that annoying cigarette smoking taking place? That's right, at tables that sit on OUR property! Where's the justice in that I ask you.

So here's the idea. We ask the City to levy a much higher fee on any restaurants using the public right of way. An increased cost that they will incur should they choose to put tables out on the sidewalks in front of their cafes. If smoking at these tables is so important to their economic survival, and if it is driving business as some have claimed, then surely they should be expected to pay for it. After all, we have fees for almost everything else in this town. Sierra Madre truly is a small residential city, and as such we are forced to nickel and dime our way to solvency. And with state grant money disappearing almost completely, where else are we to turn?

But here's the tax relief part of the argument. Let's waive the entire fee for any businesses that ban the use of tobacco from in front of their establishments. In other words, if you don't allow smoking in front of your place, you can use the sidewalks for free. But if smoking is what drives business to your establishment, then you're going to have to give City Hall a bigger cut.

Hopefully a healthy one.

One more thing - interesting information out of Stanford regarding secondhand outdoor smoke. The big lie from the smoker clique is that there is no scientific proof that outdoor cigarette smoke is harmful. Time to rethink that one.
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(Note: This article has been edited to reflect the nominal yearly $334 fee businesses pay for having sidewalk dining access. The Tattler apologizes for any inconvenience.)

36 comments:

  1. Sir Eric,

    Great post! I love the idea of the city getting a cut ...and based on the proposal put forth from our smokers, I'll paraphase here:

    Smoking — possessing any kind of lit cigarette, pipe, cigar, or the consumption of any lit cigarette, pipe, cigar, tobacco product, or any other weed or plant.

    We can guarantee revnue from every source...ie, "any" weed or plant! yeah!

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  2. Nope, small business is going to get taxed to the max by the State and the Feds.
    I would love to go more often to BeanTown and have a nice lunch. Weather will be getting good, and it's nice to sit outside, but not with the smoker crowd. I walked out of there the other day, and nearly choked, you could see a cloud of smoke right by the entrance door. Who would want to sit out there and eat?
    City Council:
    Restrict the outdoor eating areas to non smoking only.
    Small business owners:
    Why don't you just see if you get as much or more business by restricting your outdoor areas?
    You people who smoke can still have a smoke, just walk up the street a few feet away from tables. We don't want to BAN smoking, just RESTRICT it.

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  3. Love it. Maybe we should charge for the use of the
    sidewalks anyway.

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  4. Great suggestions,Sir Eric..A win..Win..for the city..We can't lose for a change?

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  5. I spoke to one of those "pompous stroller moms", a lady whose little one's go to the nursery school near Sierra Vista Park.
    She told me that there is a lot of opposition to the "smokers" around the town's eating tables, at that little school.
    This nice lady is hardly "pompous". Her and her husband both work very hard, she has two part time jobs and her and the husband trade off taking care of the little ones. They have to pay plenty to live here in Sierra Madre, but choose to do so.
    Let's keep Sierra Madre's eating places smoke free for young families who pay too much to live here , they deserve preference over out of town "smokers".
    However, if they do adopt Sir Eric's tax plan perhaps they will make a deal....drop the UUT?

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  6. Interesting idea. I wonder how the Chamber would break on
    this one. Fees that would allow them to keep their precious
    smokers, or restrictions so that they don't lose their free
    access to the sidewalk. I'd put my money on restrictions.

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  7. Why do we concern ourselves about the restaurants..overpriced,lousy food with cluttered sidewalks..Get rid of the smokers and if they can't survive..so what!

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  8. I went to BeanTown last Saturday to have lunch with a friend. We planned on eating outside. That did not happen because of the amount of smoke in the air. There were at least ten chimneys fired up and the smell was awful. That is not the environment that I want to eat in. As long as there is smoking where I want to eat, I will not eat there. A $20 lunch for 2 patrons for an hour vs a few cups of coffee for a few hours is a real money looser. The businesses need to do the math. Smoking IS bad for business.

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  9. Do the Stogie Guys know that cigar smoke
    is an aphrodisiac? According to that ad
    smoking these things will make you a real
    babe magnet.

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  10. Surely the 200+ chemicals in that smoke will melt away her false eyelash glue.
    Great picture, Sir Eric, and great info from Stanford.

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  11. Go Stroller Moms!

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  12. Maybe they could put the smokers out in the back near the parking lots--that way they'd have the front clean and nice and the chimneys would be going out back. Smoke and auto exhaust, yeah. Great combo. And if somebody still wanted to eat after that, Go for it.

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  13. The World's Largest Blossoming PlantMarch 18, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    A table for two by the dumpster, please.

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  14. I like having that side walk surcharge!! Fabulous plan!

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  15. I don't recognize any of the smokers sitting outside Bean Town and most of the smokers at Lucky's. So, as far as I'm concerned, the out of towners can just go back out of town.

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  16. If sierra madre is like any other city out there I am sure they already impose a permit fee for sidewalk dining...

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  17. There will be an opportunity to get to know many of the smokers at the council on 3/24. They will no doubt waste hours of the community's time with false analogies (equating themselves with the Jews in Poland was a stand-out), followed by paranoid and misplaced rebellion against Big Brother.
    It will be a long, long night.

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  18. Not sure about that. I think the 3 minute rule will be enforced
    rather seriously, especially when you consider that most of
    what will be said will be a repeat from the other times the
    smokers trooped in. And there should be fines levied for the
    use of World War II analogies. With the proceeds going to
    help charity.

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  19. I agree with Annon 8:45 most of the restaurants suck and the one where most of the smokers congregate made me puking ill once so I don't eat there any more. So what if these mundane restaurants go under -- the only restaurant in town that's any good is Ugo's. If the other's go under maybe something better will take their place.
    No amount of tax will make up for having to walk through disgusting cigarette smoke near one coffee place in town just to get from one end of the street to the other.
    How many of the Sierra Madre business owners live in town? Why should my town be degraded just for their profit? As a UUT payer and a property tax payer funding the majority of City related services I say ban smoking on our City sidewalks!

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  20. Anyone notice the new Beantown signs admonishing smokers to be polite and considerate of non-smokers? I thought that smoker guys said all the smokers were hyper considerate so why should Beantown need a sign all of a sudden.
    Beanie break you smoking habit and the actual towns people who live here will come back to inhabit your tables, they'll bring their kids and you'll make MORE MONEY.

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  21. Here's an interesting fact: 400,000 people die every year from smoking related diseases....think about how much this costs EVERYONE in health care costs....

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  22. Little secret on those signs. They were made by Bill Coburn. Our Chamber of Commerce hard a work, helping the kids understand the need for responsible smoking.

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  23. This smoker issue was instigated by dirts.
    It is a distraction to the important business in town, the Cong issue, getting the General Plan and Canyon Zone rolling. The dirts are so damn jealous of Don, Kurt and MaryAnn, because they have done such a good job this year, they will do anything to distract from that.
    Just like the bogus "tape" Lambdin waved around in front of the TV cameras.
    Give it up, Lambdin, people are sick of you.

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  24. They already pay a fee to the city, not sure how much though, while we're at it, has anybody seen the signage that is strapped to the outdoor lights in front of Beantown above the front door, I'm sure the code lady would like to see that, it might fall on a smoker!!

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  25. You sure that the city is collecting a fee for use of the sidewalk? I've heard differently. I'll ask somebody at City Hall and get back on that.

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  26. wow, $334.00 dollars a year? That's not even a buck a day!! That wouldn't pay wages to have our public works clean the streets of all that cigarette litter....UP THE FEES!!!

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  27. Smoking stinks! Restrict it, ban it, get rid of it!!

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  28. "wow" How about this , Ill stop Smoking altogether if You stroller moms Quit Parking your rug rats directly beneath the Hot Coffee Kiosk in starbucks while Im trying to stir in some sugar, Talk about putting your child at risk, Your only helping bring about the complete removal of freedoms in america, the fumes from your hairspray is truly offensive and probably corrosive.

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  29. With arguments like this person at 4:00 pm, no worries, smoking will be restricted, guaranteed!

    Wow! how 'bout this, I'll stop bitching about your retarded habit when you go away, don't go away mad, just go away, wow! how 'bout that.

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  30. Are you equating smokers as being retarded ?
    This is why you are more dangerous!

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  31. Anybody who willingly takes into his body something that killed over 100 million people worldwide from 1900 through 1999 qualifies as retarded.

    Save the passive-aggressive tantrums for your mom.

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  32. If you think about it, do you see handicapped, mentally or physically, people smoking, not really. Sure there may be a few that are
    (very un-PC term, don't want to use it, but I will to make the point)retarded that smoke. So I guess smoking is beyond retarded, on another plane all together.

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  33. How about the black spots left by motor vehicles. Pets and wildlife drink from toxic street puddles as we breath exhaust from those noisy machines. Until we have more clean, sound-friendly vehicles, those who drive should be treated equally.

    Regarding the term "habit," think again. The word is "addiction." San Francisco plans to cover the expense of cleaning cigarette butts by taxing smokers (of only filtered cigarettes?).

    The toxic streets and drainage of vehicle waste are a more serious issue. If only more smokers were more considerate. Unfortunately, we can't legislate courtesy.

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  34. Someone on here referred to smoking as a "retarded habit" (a double miswording). Einstein and Twain were such dimwitted losers.

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