So much for the strong mayor.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola had suggested that the Little Rock Zoo, since it sits in a city park, have a no smoking policy, just like other city parks. (That was fairly weak tea to begin with, in that the policy is only a policy, not an enforceable city law.)
The Democrat-Gazette reports today that the Board of the Little Rock Zoo gave the mayor a one-fingered salute yesterday. It will somewhat restrict smoking in the zoo, but to three designated smoking areas. In keeping with smoking areas everywhere, these will surely be delightful places for children and other living things to encounter. Not only did it tell the mayor to screw himself, the Zoo board also decreed on a 5-1 vote that the subject of cigarette smoking could not be discussed again for a year. (Might the Constitution have some say on prior speech restraint of this sort by a public body?)
Anyway. The D-G article left out a key piece of information. I had to laugh when I saw the “smokers rights” brigade on the Zoo board was led by none other than my old pal J.J. Vigneault, Republican political operator, former Mike Huckabee bag man and recently a powerful Alcoholic Beverage Control commissioner.
Vigneault, the champion of the right of smokers to inflict the unpleasant side effects of their habit on others at the Little Rock Zoo, has also made a significant amount of money over the years as a, drum roll, paid lobbyist for Big Tobacco. He helped funnel tobacco money to Huckabee through a political front group, Action America, back in the early days of Hucksterism. Telecom has been his bigger lobbying activity in recent years, but you do want to maintain your viability within the system. Once bought in the political game, it is considered fair play to stay bought.
Strong mayor is no match for R.J. Reynolds. The City Board could try to pass an ordinance enforcing a smoking ban in parks, including the Zoo, but I think we already know how that would turn out.