Boschert Needs to Clear the Air ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

February 22, 1993

Just what is Anne Arundel County Council Chairman David Boschert up to?

One day he says Councilwoman Maureen Lamb's bill to restrict smoking in public places doesn't do enough to protect the public health. Smoking should be banned, period, he suggests.

The next day, however, he calls Mrs. Lamb's bill "hostile to employers," shoves it to the bottom of the council agenda and says he wants a task force to study puffing in public places for the next seven months. Suddenly, it's past midnight, too late for a vote, and both the smoking ban and the task force are put off for another month.

On the third day, he denies he is trying to stall smoking restrictions. He is ready to pass legislation now, but reserves the right to amend it later, after the task force finishes -- a strategy that's a little like testing your parachute after you've jumped from the plane.

If Mr. Boschert believes smoking is dangerous enough to be outlawed, why bother with a task force? What will it tell us that we don't already know? If protection of non-smokers is so important, why is he pussyfooting around?

The answer is that he's trying to run interference for the business community. But if he is also concerned, as he says he is, about public health, why doesn't he simply vote for Mrs. Lamb's bill, which protects non-smokers but is less "hostile" to employers than the all-out ban the chairman says he prefers?

Mrs. Lamb's bill has other problems, he says. Employers with fewer than nine workers shouldn't be exempt, he says. If so, why doesn't he amend the bill?

Mr. Boschert has boxed himself into a corner. If he wants a smoking bill that's a "model for the state," as strict as the ban Howard County is considering, business people are going to be inconvenienced and angry. That's the way it is.

We have a feeling Mr. Boschert is trying to have it both ways.

He is afraid of alienating businesses, but doesn't want to look like a goat for opposing a bill that is sensible and popular with voters. Now he is trapped in a mass of contradictions that make him look like he doesn't know what he believes.

Does he support a smoking ban or not? The council chairman needs to make up his mind.

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