by Max Brantley
I mentioned over the weekend that an anti-smoking group had said the Little Rock Zoo Board might vote again today on banning smoking at the zoo. I think not. It doesn't appear that the Board currently has the five votes needed to pass a ban. The subject may be discussed at a board meeting at 4 p.m. today, along with a potential "compromise" to restrict smoking to limited areas at the zoo. That compromise won't eliminate the butt litter problem.
The ban failed last time on a 3-3 vote, with Board member J.J. Vigneault, who's done lobbying for the tobacco industry, absent. He's a "no" vote, in other words. Voting in favor of continued smoking (though it is banned in front of some exhibits) were Matt Coffield, George Mallory and City Board member Brad Cazort, himself a smoker. Voting for the ban were Tad Bohannon, Alecia Castleberry and Sam Walls III. Opponents of the ban say they fear a drop in attendance.
The Board has a new member since that vote, Bridget Williams Bridgette Frazier, who's told zoo officials she favors the ban. There is one vacancy yet to be filled and Mallory's term has expired, but he's continued to serve until the City Board names a replacement. All this provides some hope for a smoke-free zoo eventually, but not yet.
The Zoo is contained within a city park, which in theory are no-smoking zones, but that policy is only advisory. The City Board could enact a smoking ban, but that would, I guess, require more gumption than this Board is known for.
UPDATE: As expected the Zoo Board took no action Monday. Instead, it indicated its desire to protect smokers at any cost by finding a good smoking area at the Zoo. There is no such thing.