On Tuesday, March 13, voters will decide who should represent the city for the Ward 1 and Ward 3 council seats. On Monday night, residents and supporters packed the Catherine Hickman Theater in Gulfport for the annual "Meet the Candidates" Forum moderated by the League of Women Voters.
Dwight Lawton with the League of Women Voters asked the questions and candidates were given one minute each to answer each question. The event finished at the end of one hour with a two-minute closing from each candidate.
Gulfport Patch put together the responses from each candidate about the smoking ban on the beach.
Smoking Ban on the Gulfport Beach
"I'm ok with that and I'm especially ok with that around playgrounds. But, what concerns me is there's a state law that supersedes the city ordinance that was passed. So, what you have is people who want to challenge that. Now we've created a liability for the city. They had a 'smoke in' a couple weeks ago about 20 people showed up, they all wanted to get a ticket. And the police wouldn't write a ticket because the signs weren't up to what he considered readable or wasn't up to the city's standards. We need to be aware of our state law and not create liabilities on the city."
"There's probably nobody in here that despises smoking anymore than me. It killed my mother at a young age. But, I think that everyone in this country has the right to be able to smoke as long as they're not jeopardizing someone else's health. Definitely not around the playgrounds, there should be areas designated for people to smoke. If you look at any historical papers back in the day, you'll see the Model T's and you see the elderly men . . .there was nothing like going down to Gulfport Beach and sitting out in the afternoons and smoking a stogie . . . that's part of Gulfport's heritage and I don't want to take it away from anybody. As long as they put their butts in the container . . .and they're not hurting anyone else, I don't see a problem with it. . . it's their right to smoke."
"My initial opinion was that we have the Indoor Clean Air Act and that forced people who smoke to go outside. We passed an ordinance, which I voted in favor of eventually. I raised these same concerns about civil liberties. The reason why I passed it is because I really did want to protect our playgrounds. I have a son and there's nothing more frustrating than to be sitting at the beach playground and having a bunch of people smoking around the children. We will review it in one year's time and that was one thing that gave me hope. If there aren't major problems that is brought up in terms of court cases or anything and it's actually working . . . . . it is an infringement on civil liberties when we've already moved people out of buildings and into the fresh air."
"I was the city council person that originally brought this issue forward. And city council eventually passed it 5 - 0 in favor of the smoking ban, tobacco ban on our beaches, little league field, playgrounds and our parks throughout the city. 83% of Floridians do not smoke. We have first hand smoke issues, which certainly causes a tremendous amount of death in the United States, we have second hand smoke and now there's even something called third hand smoke. We did set aside a part of the beach east of the Casino down to the Pier that smoking, tobacco use is allowed so we didn't eliminate it all. As far as the state law, there is no state law that prohibits the localities from enforcing this. That is an Attorney General opinion that the clean indoor act applies to the outdoor."