Commentary

Smoking Gun Or Irrelevant?

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Petty Recorded
Smoking In Kingfish …

But does it matter?

It’s a dark, blurry video capture of what might be a hard-to-see blob of what might be Matthew Petty smoking. (It is him, and he was ... but does that matter?)

Last week I got a call asking if I’d be interested in a video clip of Fayetteville council member Matthew Petty. A couple of locals had gone into on-the-spot journalism mode and captured Petty smoking at the Kingfish bar near Dickson — the same Petty who is co-sponsoring a change in city rules that would ban smoking in bars. Doh!

I said I’d take a look at the video, even though it wasn’t really a surprise — I knew Petty smoked and he’s made no secret about it. He even spoke about it at the last council meeting, though apparently he was holding a little something back:

“But I HAVE made a secret of the fact that I’m quitting. I’ve had a few relapses since deciding to become a co-sponsor. This was one.”

That was one of Petty’s responses when I emailed him about the clip. While I don’t think him smoking has anything to do with the argument for supporting the ordinance change — secondhand smoke is still like a Tony Jaa punch to the lungs  — I can see how people opposed to the ban might perceive his stance as … a bit disingenuous. So I played devil’s advocate and asked Petty some questions.

Q: You’re engaging in a legal activity currently when smoking in a Fayetteville bar. However, do you think it undermines your support for the ordinance change if you’re choosing to continue exposing bar workers to secondhand smoke while expounding on the dangers it presents?
MP: I’m disappointed in my relapse, but it doesn’t undermine the science or principles behind the proposed amendment. My job is to consider the facts and the costs indoor secondhand smoke places on society, not to make a decision that would be most convenient for my own habits. The temptation to smoke again is one of the reasons I have avoided bars which allow indoor smoking on other evenings I’ve been out.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XAjAbhyK_g[/youtube]

Q: What happened after the video cuts off? It appears you may have tried to push the camera away. Do you think your actions were a little brusque or did you find the guys who approached to be invasive and/or rude?
MP: I covered the lens with my hand and asked the two men who approached me to go away. After the video cuts off, they did. I went back to having a pleasant evening with my friends. If they care to contact me, I’ll set a time and place to have a conversation with them. I’ll talk to anyone about anything, as evidenced by the candor with which I’ll answer the Free Weekly’s questions, but I won’t acquiesce to interruptions like this one.

Q: Do you think you have the six votes needed to pass the ordinance change at the next council meeting? What will you do if it fails or is tabled for additional discussion?
MP: I know the ordinance will not be tabled for another meeting. I would like to see the council pass this with all eight votes on Tuesday evening, but at least, with the six votes required. When something has been shown to be dangerous to the public health, it is the government’s responsibility to act to protect the safety of its citizens.

If the voters of Fayetteville want to challenge the council’s decision, then the democratic process should be allowed to proceed. If we fail to pass it, that initiative will be led by supporters of the change. If we do pass it, that initiative will be led by those in opposition. I would expect nothing less from Fayetteville, and I support that process.

▲ Regardless of how things turn out, I thought it was cool of Petty to own it (Instead of claiming “It wasn’t me. It was the one-armed man.”), since he’s liable to catch a little flak from both sides for his smoking relapse. So what do y’all think? Does it change your opinion on the issue? Does it change your opinion on Petty? Or is it just a puff in the wind? (Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

6 Comments

rightsman June 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Of course this is relevant, the guy is co-sponsoring a non-smoking bill and is on record saying that it is a health issue for the employees and there he is adding to the smoke. Why didn’t he answer the question of why did he choose to go in there? If this is not the definition of hypocrisy than I don’t know what is.

Reply to this comment
TennisGuy June 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Hypocrite? Maybe…hell, let’s say absolutely. But the issue at hand is the smoking ordinance. The argument for or against shouldn’t be swayed by one man’s frailties, addictions or bad habits. Doesn’t matter if he is an alderman or the pope.

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BunnyProle June 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm

This made me question his motives for co-sponsoring the bill. Exactly what would that motive be?
The only things I could think of that are logical are either somewhat shady, political gain, or ridiculous, Petty thinking an expanded smoking ban would help him quit. As he said, “I’m disappointed in my relapse.”

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