- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

Some residents of Friendship Heights, Md., are furious that Mayor Al Muller recently revived a 4-year-old plan to ban smoking in public places including streets, sidewalks and parks without getting their input.
Cleo Tavani, the head of the Friendship Heights Village Civic Association, criticized the mayor yesterday for failing to notify residents.
"The Village Council never notified before, and to this day has not notified its citizens that it is resurrecting this legislation," Ms. Tavani said.
The Village Council passed the regulation in 1996, but, as a special taxing district, Friendship Heights must have all of its ordinances approved by the County Council.
The regulation was not sent to the County Council in 1996, however, because too many of its members opposed it at the time, said Dr. Muller, who practices internal medicine. But a new county council that tends to favor anti-smoking legislation and the rash of lawsuits against tobacco companies convinced him it was time to bring the ban back.
"It's a public health regulation that is intended to keep the streets clean and the air cleaner and protect smokers and nonsmokers from the toxic effect of their fumes," he said yesterday.
Friendship Heights which covers less than one square mile and is just west of the Montgomery County-D.C. line has about 5,000 residents.
Some are critical of both the wait and the lack of notification before it was sent to County Council.
"I don't smoke, I loathe smoking, but it's a grandstanding play on the part of Village Council," said Pat Smith, a 32-year resident of Friendship Heights. "We're taxpayers, we really should be consulted on these things," Mrs. Smith said.
Dr. Muller Thursday defended the council's decision to revive the regulation at its June 12 meeting.
"There was no legal or other obligation to inform people," Dr. Muller said. "It wasn't something that needed to be voted on. In fact, it didn't need to be announced, but I felt it was of interest to people."
Henry Huntley heads up the Friendship Village Civic Association, which is often at odds with Ms. Tavani's group. He said yesterday he thinks most people favor the ban.
"I think the general attitude of the public across the United States is to be against the idea of smoking," said Mr. Huntley, a retired physician.
Mike Faden, County Council staff lawyer, said he is still examining the regulation, but has not noticed any significant legal problems with it.
The four-year wait before sending it to the County Council also does not appear to be illegal, he said.
"There's nothing in the Friendship Heights charter," Mr. Faden said. "I do think it's a little unusual, but I don't think that invalidates it."
The fine for smoking or discarding tobacco products would be $100, but the intent is to warn people, not to fine them, Dr. Muller said. Wisconsin and Willard avenues, the main streets through Friendship Heights, would not be affected by the ban because they are maintained by the state and county.
Howard A. Denis, who represents the village on the County Council, said Thursday he will not make a decision on the ban until after public hearings have been held sometime in the fall.
"Hopefully, we'll have a frank exchange of views from different people on both sides of the question, and that certainly will be the basis for the council voting on it," said Mr. Denis, Friendship Heights Republican.

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