“Smoking Police” Coming to Dallas

Critics say money allocated to enforcers could be better spent elsewhere

The city of Dallas' new no-smoking ordinance goes into effect a little more than a month from now. But just who will enforce this new law?

The Dallas City Council voted 11-3 Wednesday morning to approve spending $165,674 on three new positions in the city's Environmental and Health Services Department.

The positions are officially "sanitarians," but some people view them as the "Smoking Police."

The ordinance enforcers won't hang out in Dallas bars looking for violators, but will only respond to complaints called into 311.

Karen Rayzer, director of Environmental and Health Services, said the extra help was needed. With the city's billiard halls, bingo parlors and more than 3,000 bars, "there was no way we could possibly do it with the 22 Sanitarians we already have."

But bar patrons such as Alicia Uhrich wondered if the more than $165,000 could have been put to better use.

"I think it's a waste of money, and the only reason why is because there's so many more important things we could do with that money," she said.

Bill Katz, owner of Frankies Sports Bar Grill, said only 11 smoking complaints were forwarded to the city during all of 2008.

"I think there were 120 noise complaints against roosters within the city," he said. "So why are they throwing money at 11 complaints? What are they going to do about the chicken noise?"

Katz said he wonders if having ordinance enforcers is even worth it.

"I don't see where it's going to do much good," he said. "All they're going to do is upset patrons. They're going to upset bar owners, and they're going to do what everybody else has said is going to happen since the beginning of this debate: They're going to drive revenue out of Dallas."

The city will hire the three smoking-ordinance enforcers within the next two weeks so they can go through training before the measure goes into effect April 10.

They will also be responsible for educating business owners and the public about how to abide by the new ordinance.

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