By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Petaluma City Council will seat its newest member Monday and formally vote on new garbage-hauling and smoking ordinances tentatively approved last year by the previous council.
Kathy Miller, an attorney and east Petaluma resident, will take the oath of office and assume her seat on the dais with Councilmen Mike Healy and Gabe Kearney, who voters returned to the council in November. Miller replaces Tiffany Renee, who placed fourth in the election for three seats.
Miller ran as a team with Healy, and the pair consider themselves the centrist members of the council, between the more conservative Mike Harris and Chris Albertson and more liberal Mayor David Glass and Teresa Barrett. Kearney’s votes have gone in both directions.
She will be welcomed at a 6 p.m. reception at City Hall before the the meeting begins an hour later.
The council will be asked to formally adopt broad new smoking restrictions in a variety of public and private spaces as sought by the police department and anti-smoking advocates.
In December, the council voted unanimously to tentatively approve the new regulations, which include banning cigarette, marijuana and e-cigarette use in all hotel rooms, private apartments and condos, and from outdoor spaces including balconies, courtyards, bus stops and on commercial sidewalks.
Meant to protect nonsmokers from exposure to second-hand smoke, the ordinance was the result of efforts by the American Lung Association and other health groups. Petaluma’s rules are similar, although somewhat more stringent, than no-smoking laws Sonoma County has implemented during the past year.
Since the previous vote, Police Chief Pat Williams said he has received questions about the inclusion of electronic cigarettes in the ban. Citing information from the University of Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, Williams said e-cigarettes should be treated the same as tobacco and marijuana smoking in the ordinance.
A federal appeals court in Washington ruled in 2010 that the Food and Drug Administration can regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products only if they aren’t marketed for therapeutic purposes, such as a smoking-cessation aid.
An e-cigarette consists of a battery, a heating element and a cartridge that contains a liquid suspension with nicotine. When a user inhales from the cartridge, the liquid is heated and a vapor is emitted.
According to the FDA, because the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes haven’t been fully studied, it is unknown how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use.
The council also is set to adopt a 15-year franchise agreement with Petaluma Refuse and Recycling for the exclusive right to haul waste and sweep streets in the city.
In November, the council voted 5-2, with Barrett and Healy opposed, to tentatively approve the deal, which will increase residents’ garbage bills by more than 6 percent and will bring in an additional $750,000 a year to city coffers.
The trash company sought a long-term contract with the city and offered an additional $500,000 a year to the city general fund and an increase in the company’s “vehicle impact” payment to the city by $250,000 a year as incentive.
That general fund payment can be spent at the council’s discretion while the vehicle impact payment is earmarked to offset some of the wear and tear large garbage trucks cause to city streets.
The general fund payment cannot be passed onto customers in the form of higher rates, but the vehicle impact fee will be, which in part triggered Healy and Barrett’s opposition.