St. Petersburg attorney Andy Strickland has been fighting the city's smoking ban since January of last year, claiming the ban is illegal and unconstitutional.
Strickland held two "smoke in" protests on the beach and filed a lawsuit against the City of Gulfport regarding a citation he received for smoking on the beach in April.
Gulfport City Attorney Andrew Salzman says he's held several shade meetings, attended hearings and filed a motion to dismiss, again, on December 14, 2012.
During Thursday night's City Council Meeting, Attorney Salzman told councilors about the next step regarding the lawsuit.
Salzman plans to resolve the pending litigation before both parties are due back in court on Feb. 25. He is moving forward with drafting an ordinance he considers a "compromise."
“(It would) allow for designated smoking areas in the parks, outdoor playgrounds and athletic fields with visual access to those facilities,” Salzman said.
Salzman worked directly with Attorney Andy Strickland in drafting specific language for the ordinance. Strickland says the main change in the new ordinance will lift the ban on the beach. There will still be a ban on playgrounds, athletic fields and parks.
While he maintains that any regulation of outdoor smoking is unconstitutional, he says he's trying to be reasonable.
"There’s no sense why people just simply can’t work issues out without going through needless and constant lititation," Strickland said.
"We can agree to disagree and we can do so respectfully. . . We realize at the end of the day, it’s all about getting something accomplished," Strickland added.
“I negotiated the language with Mr. Strickland. Mr. Strickland is in agreement with the proposed language change,” Andrew Salzman said.
If the council votes on the new ordinance during the next two meetings, Jan. 15 and Feb. 5, it would pass before the next hearing, according to Salzman and Strickland.
If the new ordinance includes the agreed upon language, Strickland will drop the lawsuit. But, “If it’s not passed with the specific language that he and I agreed upon, he and I will go back to court,” Strickland said.
"We're trying to resolve the issue. It's a waste of city time and money and it's a waste of Mr. Strickland's time and money," Attorney Andrew Salzman added.
Salzman will bring the proposed ordinance to the City Council for first reading on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. at Gulport City Hall.
In 2012 Andy Strickland deliberatly lit up a cigar on Gulfport Beach three times in order to receive a citation. Strickland first held a "smoke in" in January but was not cited due to the lack of proper signage of the new ordinance. In February he was cited, but the charges were dropped by the city. Then, in April, Strickland, joined by several supporters, was ticketed for smoking a cigar on the beach.
According to a Florida Statute, the regulation of smoking is up to the state, not local governments, Strickland has said.
Regulation of smoking preempted to state. This part expressly preempts regulation of smoking to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject; however, school districts may further restrict smoking by persons on school district property.
About the Ordinance:
Gulfport City Council voted 5-0 to pass a smoking ban on the beach, athletic fields and facilities and playgrounds in the city on Tuesday, November 1, 2011.
The ban affects the following locations in Gulfport:
- Gulfport Beach (shoreline from the Rec Center to the Casino)
- Gulfport Recreation Center's playgrounds and outdoor basketball court
- Gulfport Little League Complex
- Hoyt Field Baseball Field
- Tomlinson Park Skateboard Park and children's playground
- Chase Park tennis Courts
- Chase Park children's playground
- Caldwell Park children's playground
The ban does not affect: