Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Circumventing the public necessary to win smokefree exemption, Jack Evans says

Jack Evan, Washington, DC Ward 2 Councilmember, models an Eric Finn suit and shirt for Fashion Fights Poverty.

Flickr photo courtesy of fashionfightspovertydc

It isn’t often that a politician admits that his strategy is to bypass the public so he can win.

But that’s what D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) told us yesterday when we ran into him outside the Wilson Building.

We were talking to Councilmembers about the large exemption the Council put in the smokefree workplaces law over the summer and urging them to repeal it. The exemption allows for annual cigar-smoking events in a large number of hotels throughout the city.

Evans saw us and greeted us as we were chatting with Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), who still thought the exemption applied to just one event, a charity fundraiser.

Evans said he was willing to compromise by narrowing the exemption and asked if we would compromise and agree to it. (Of course, we’re not on the dais voting, so this line of reasoning was a bit odd.)

We said there shouldn’t be any exemption, and that we don’t compromise on health, but if he really thought it was warranted, why not put it through the committee process so the public can have input? (Evans and Councilmember Michael Brown (D-At Large) slipped the exemption into an unrelated budget measure and blindsided the public health community.)

Evans’ response: “If it went through committee, you would win!”

So there you have it.

A D.C. Councilmember acknowledges that if he were to be aboveboard and let the public have input on a measure designed to weaken an incredibly popular and effective smokefree workplaces law, he wouldn’t be successful.

So he used an underhanded tactic instead.

This also raises a question: Has Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) abandoned his authority as chair of the Committee on Health to protect the health of hotel workers? It would appear so, given that he voted for two versions of the cigar-event exemption and has yet to insist that any proposal to weaken the law go through his committee.Perhaps he will rise to the occasion and insist that the right procedures are followed. After all, he was a great proponent of the smokefree workplaces bill when it was being debated and was instrumental in it becoming law. We lauded him at the time, with good reason. Let’s hope he still feels strongly enough about about protecting worker health to defend the law that he did so much to enact.





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