Melina Kennedy's campaign released its sharpest attack on Mayor Greg Ballard yet after his comments on service workers in relation to a comprehensive smoking ban in Indianapolis. Kennedy's statement:
"Earlier this week, it was reported that Mayor Ballard continues to oppose a comprehensive smoking ban in Indianapolis. This was not a surprise.
I was, however, shocked to hear the Mayor describe those waitresses, cooks, bartenders and others in the service industry as “transient” workers.
As someone who learned the values of hard work and commitment working as a hostess and waiting tables in my family’s restaurant, I know exactly what it’s like to be on your feet all day, serve your customers and depend on tips.
So, here’s a tip for Mayor Ballard:
Don’t ever dismiss Indianapolis’ waiters, waitresses and service-industry workers as “transient employees” or anything else. Many of these individuals spend years, if not an entire career in the service industry, propelling the Indianapolis economy forward. These men and women are vital to our economy and their hard work is something a Mayor should respect, not shrug off.
Mayor Ballard owes them an apology. And, even more importantly, he owes them respect for helping drive our economy forward. Call Mayor Ballard at (317) 327-3601 and tell him he owes these hard-working men and women an apology.
Well stated. I don't think it requires much more input from me. Kennedy was a waitress for a time, and she knows the job and how hard it can be. Not only that, but I think she understands the people that do that job. Mayor Ballard clearly doesn't.
Let's forget for the moment that Candidate Ballard was on the record in support of a comprehensive ordinance banning smoking back in 2007. Instead, let's examine what Mayor Ballard is saying here along with what other opponents of a comprehensive smoking ban are saying.
Regardless of how long you work somewhere, it should be noted that the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke are well-documented. While there are cases of lung cancer that just develop, your chances of getting this horrible form of cancer are significantly greater when you are in an environment that permits smoking.
I have lived with smokers. My father smoked for the first 11 years of my life until he had a heart attack and quit cold turkey in 1986. Later, I lived with a smoker for six years until we broke up and went our separate ways. I can also remember the times that I've been to a bar or a smoking establishment, and, while a quick shower can remove the stench, it takes longer to clean that crap out of my lungs. In short, I can't do it anymore, and I avoid places where there are smokers and smoking.
That kind of decision that I make simply is not a reality for many. A service worker must go where the money is, and sometimes that requires them to work in a bar or a restaurant or another establishment that permits smoking. It's very true, as my cigar-puffing radio host/blogger friend Abdul always points out, that they could work elsewhere, but is that really the point?
We just learned that Indianapolis is one of the few major cities in the country to not have a comprehensive smoking ban. Are you trying to tell me, as many of the lobbyists for the bars and restaurants will, that people will stop going because they can't smoke? Listen, smokers are going to smoke. The cost of cigarettes is ridiculous. If they are going to pay that amount of money, then they're going to find a way to do it.
This is a great public health concern that Mayor Ballard is shrugging off. Why should it matter how long someone is exposed to these risks that secondhand smoke bring to the table? If I work at a bar for six months or 15 years, does that really matter? I'm still inhaling that carcinogen cocktail.
Kennedy is right to criticize the Mayor for his position on this, and she is also right to call him out on his disrespect for the service workers in this city.