A proposal to further tighten the city’s smoking regulations and earn an official smoke-free designation will go to the City Council for a vote April 11.
The ordinance amendment would ban smoking in bars, pool halls, bingo parlors, bowling centers and sexually oriented businesses, all of which are exempted under the existing ordinance. Exceptions for designated smoking areas in workplaces also would be removed, and e-cigarettes would be regulated the same as their tobacco counterparts.
The proposal hit a snag during the council’s afternoon session Tuesday, as Councilmen Charlie Parker and Robert Shepard said they worry that a smoking ban would run the handful of pool and bingo halls out of business and displace their workers. They weren’t swayed by arguments that Arlington’s restaurants flourished under the 1991 smoking ordinance when many feared they would flee the city.
“I’m not willing to take the gamble for these businesses,” Shepard said. “They are taxpaying businesses that employ people in this community.”
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The proposed regulations would qualify Arlington as a “100% Smoke-Free City” and add it to a list of at least 67 Texas cities with a total population of “10.5 million citizens protected from secondhand smoke,” according to Smoke-Free Texas, a coalition of “organizations and individuals who believe all Texas employees and customers have the right to breathe clean indoor air.”
Designated cities in North Texas include Dallas, Plano, Frisco, Southlake and Flower Mound.
Several proponents of the expanded smoking ban urged the council to approve it at upcoming vote.
“Our goal … is to make Arlington a better place to live, work and play,” said Donna Darovich, president of MPAC, a women’s community improvement nonprofit. “This is your opportunity to protect the public health.”
Backers of bingo parlors turned out as well.
“Ninety-five percent of the people who play bingo smoke,” said Ken Johnson, bingo chairman for the Knights of Columbus, who said Arlington has just one public bingo spot and two private ones, which are exempted from smoking restrictions. “You’re not going to get people not to smoke. They’re just going to go someplace else to play bingo.”
The council voted 9-0 to approve a one-year, $272,000 lease of two autonomous vehicles from their maker, EasyMile of Toulouse, France.
The two shuttles, part of a pilot project, start work in June, ferrying up to 12 people at up to 20 mph along a programmed “virtual track.”
The electric shuttles require no permanent infrastructure and will follow routes along trail systems and parking lots, avoiding streets, said John Dugan, community development and planning director for the city.
The shuttles are driverless but will have human chaperones as they take visitors to and from parking lots during events in the entertainment district — all while boosting the city’s reputation, officials expect.
In a staff report, they called the pilot project an “opportunity to test autonomous vehicle technology in a real-world setting and help position the city at the forefront of the transportation technology movement.”
New UPS hub
The council unanimously approved tax-incentives deal to bring a 1.2 million-square-foot UPS regional hub and 1,400 jobs to an industrial warehouse district near I-20 and Texas 360.
UPS will invest $105 million in business personal property and the city will refund 85 percent of the taxes to be assessed on that property for seven years.
Shane Simpson, UPS west region tax director, confirmed that Arlington beat out some competition to land the project.
“Our real estate team looked at several business parks in Tarrant County and Dallas County,” he said in an interview outside the meeting. “Arlington has been great to work with. We appreciate the cooperative spirit of Arlington.”
City officials said they had a key advantage — a newly constructed warehouse, nearly complete — in the American Commerce Center, south of I-20 in the southeast corner of New York Avenue and Bardin Road.
Simpson said the regional center is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2018.
“Let us all join in thanking UPS for the investment they’re going to be making in our community,” Mayor Jeff Williams said after the 9-0 vote. “This is a major milestone, a Fortune 500 company with a great reputation coming here. This was a great victory for Arlington, and it’s going to make a difference in our economy.
Rangers beyond ’53?
The council got a brief update on design and construction plans for the $1 billion retractable-roof stadium for the Texas Rangers, approved by voters Nov. 8 in a partnership to keep the Rangers in Arlington through the 2053 baseball season. But it was the last thing Rob Matwick, the team’s executive vice president of development, said that caught a few ears.
“This agreement will make this the home of the Rangers forever,” Matwick said. “We’re honored to be here.”
Mayor Jeff Williams caught it. “Can you say that one more time?”
Matwick did — to raucous applause.