Walnut Creek City Councilman Justin Wedel has unleashed two petition campaigns to overturn part of the city's new smoking regulations as well as prevent it from banning plastic bags without approval from voters.
Wedel said he filed papers Wednesday with the City Clerk, notifying that office he intends to pass out petitions on both issues.
The City Attorney's office now has 15 days to draw up a summary of both initiatives. Wedel then needs to publish the initiatives in a newspaper before he can start collecting signatures. He expects to start doing that by late November.
Wedel needs about 4,000 signatures for each petition. The councilman said he hopes to have the initiatives on the June ballot.
Wedel said he agrees with the provisions that prohibit smoking in public places. However, he disagrees with the rules that ban smoking in apartments and other multi-family facilities.
He said each housing complex should develop its own rules regarding smoking.
"It's government overreaching into what people can and can't do behind closed doors," he said.
The second initiative is a pre-emptive strike against a proposal to ban plastic carry-out bags at businesses in Walnut Creek.
At a retreat last Friday, the council directed city staff to come up with a proposed ordinance that would prohibit single-used carry-out bags at local businesses. The primary purpose of the proposed law is to eliminate plastic bags.
Wedel said the ordinance would be an intrusion into how private companies run their businesses.
He added any such ban should be voted on by the public, not the council.
Mayor Pro Tem Kristina Lawson defended both council votes.
She said anti-smoking provisions are a health and safety issue, something the council should deal with.
"The second-hand smoke issue at its most fundamental level is a public health issue," said Lawson.
She said the plastic bag ban is long overdue. She said anyone who takes a trip to landfills can see these bags blowing around in the wind. She said they can litter the landscape and potentially prompt a fine against the city from state or federal authorities.
"The bag ban is an environmental issue," she said.
Lawson said Wedel is within his rights to place items on the ballot, but she added it's unorthodox for a council member on the losing end of a vote to take this step.
"It's highly unusual the process he has selected. It's not the process I would select if I was in the minority on a vote," said Lawson.