Winnebago County leaders have yet to light up the issue. Rockton board members extinguished it quickly. But now all eyes are on Machesney Park. Right now there is no ordinance. There isn't even a rough draft. In July, three members of Machesney Park's Public Safety and Health Committee gave their approval to pursue a Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. But at this time those were just words, nothing has been put into writing.
75% of the bar patrons at Legends in Machesney Park smoke. The owner says a smoking ban would kill his business. Clifford Sterling has owned Legends for 15 years. He says, "The no smoking ban will be paid for with taxes somewhere else. You lose taxes in hospitality, you get home taxes raised or property, real estate. Nothing is free."
An ad recently came out in the Rockford Register Star and echoes similar concerns to that of Sterling. The ad was paid for by the Illinois Licenses Beverage Association Chapter 59. The bottom of the ad reads, “When governments lose tax revenue it must be replaced.”
Mayor Linda Vaughn of Machesney Park states, "If Machesney Park loses 15 – 20% of the sales tax we have no property tax so we have no way to recoup this money."
But Halrem Township Supervisor Doug Aurand says ads are used as scare tactics. Aurand and the American Cancer Society have been busy promoting why the village should be smoke free. They've even had to clear the air about a list of potential restaurants interested in locating along 173.
Mayor Vaughn states, "We've talked to restaurants, truck stops and several said keep us abreast of the discussion cause it will determine if we will move to the village or not."
The American Cancer Society says they too have made the rounds and say potential establishments said a smoke free community is not a deciding factor. Aurand states, "To suggest that there are restaurants and bars that would not come to Machesney Park because we are smoke free is ludicrous."
Monday night those that are against the smoking ordinance had their say. So far this issue is still at a committee level although next month the Public Safety and Health Committee will actually see the first rough draft of the ordinance. Aurand says if the village eventually can't see through the haze Harlem Township voters will again have a say this Fall.