City Commissioner Randy Leonard isn't shy about his hatred of cigarettes. He'd ban them outright if he could, but his hands are tied by jurisdictional limits, so he's only managed to chip away at smoking in areas that the city controls—including the outdoors.
His office is currently working on a city ordinance that would ban smoking outside city-owned buildings. While it would apply to all city facilities, the proposed ban is directed at the Portland Building—next door to city hall—which houses many of the city's bureaus and employees.
The Portland Building—at SW 5th and Madison—has an overhang that stretches along the entire west-facing side of the building. Naturally, that's where city employees and other building denizens gather to smoke, especially during the 10 months of the year when it rains.
But, according to Leonard's chief of staff, Ty Kovatch, secondhand smoke leaks into the building—right into the Water Bureau's customer service walk-in center.
"These people breathe in secondhand smoke all day long," Kovatch says.
The ordinance—if it goes forward—would give the Office of Management and Finance, which manages all city buildings, the authority to determine how far away smokers will have to stand from the building.
Leonard's effort follows a similar scheme from earlier in the year—to ban smoking at all Portland parks. That idea failed to find support on city council.
More successful, though, was the state legislature's plan to ban smoking in bars, which passed and will go into effect in January of 2009. In the meantime, bars may become the only safe place to smoke.