MARCH MARKS A HISTORIC MONTH IN DALLAS – the end of cigarette smoking in restaurants. I was surprised that the Dallas City Council passed the resolution, since Dallas, and Texas, tend to be places that fear government intervention in people’s livelihoods and lives. And prohibiting smoking in restaurants is definitely going to interfere in some livelihoods and impact some lives around here.

Texans typically don’t like the government telling them what to do, from what speed limit to drive to whether or not an open container in a car is legal. But just like driving home from work on a Friday night with an iced cold one in your hand has gone the way of the dinosaur, so, now, will a smoke after a meal.

As restrictive as Texas is about alcohol consumption, the state has never had much to say about tobacco, which has always seemed backwards to me. Buying a bottle of Chardonnay at the grocery store seems less harmful to me than a carton of cigarettes, but for wine, some residents have to drive a long way, while the rest of us find both available at every corner market.

As a former smoker, it took a long time for me to jump on the anti-smoking bandwagon, and I’ve still only got one leg more or less draped over it. I don’t like a lot of government interference in my life. I’d like to visit a California winery, or one in Australia or France, and have the winery ship a case of wine to my door. But I’m not able to, as long as I live in Texas, because the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) wants to make sure they get their cut from the liquor distributors.

But smoking in public harms more than the smokers, who have the right, in my opinion, to choose to harm themselves. It hurts the pregnant server, the bartender who breathes it until last call, and any of the patrons unlucky enough to be sitting near the smoking section.

So this is an ordinance whose time has come, and I’m happy that we have a mayor and council representatives willing to stand up to a very powerful lobby.

This change might be the lasting legacy of Laura Miller’s mayoral tenure, since large public works projects and a park on the Trinity River aren’t likely to happen during her term, or her next one, if she gets one. Now I’m wondering what the mayor has left for an encore, now that she has eliminated strip clubs as an acceptable form of entertainment for city business brokers and overseen the elimination of restaurant cigarette smoking. (She didn’t resemble Carrie Nation when she ran for her first term, but Miller’s achievements are starting to look more and more like the famous prohibitionist.)

I like Laura Miller, and I liked her vision for the city when she ran for mayor the first time. I thought Ron Kirk’s pro-business agenda was exactly what a senator’s platform should be – but not a mayor’s, since overdevelopment is not enhancing the quality of life in my Dallas neighborhood. But a mayor can’t count potholes forever, and I’d like to see Laura propose a meatier agenda for her second term, now that she’s gotten the lay of the land and fixed a few streets around town.

I do think we have probably the most qualified candidates we’ve had to choose from in a while. City council representatives know what the residents of Dallas want, and the campaigns for mayor will, hopefully, center on that vision and how each candidate plans to accomplish it.

Presently, I think the mayor’s report card reflects a successful tenure, but I’ll be interested to hear where she plans to go from here. And if she can figure out some way to get around the TABC preventing me from shipping wine to my doorstep, she’ll have my vote for sure.


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