John Toplikar, 6th District County Commissioner and Don Roberts, Edgerton Mayor, chat prior to Toplikar’s presentation to Gardner City Council on March 21. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Gardner’s council heard the pros and cons of raising the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 at their March 21 meeting.
Todd Winters, council vice-president, had requested that council examine the issue about a month ago, and HealthyKC, an organization in partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, brought six individual supporters of the Tobacco 21 KC effort to present the case to council.
“Our public enemy number one is the abuse of tobacco,” Roy Jensen, director, University of Kansas Cancer Center, and Gardner resident, told council.
Jensen said humans simply do not reach a fully developed state until about 25 years of age, and until then lack the maturity, judgment and the ability to access risk in an appropriate form.
“One of the major things this tries to accomplish is to make sure that children even younger than 18 do not have access to tobacco,” Jensen said.
Scott Hall, from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, approached the issue from an economic standpoint.
“We see that economic vitality and health are intertwined,” he said.
Haley Akin, a health and well being specialist from Garmin and Gardner resident, spoke of costs absorbed by employers due to smoking related issues.
”Tobacco 21 would save local employers $940,000 in the coming ten years,” she said, speaking of Gardner businesses.
Three people spoke during the public comments section. Two of them objected to the issue and made arguments on grounds of personal rights.
A 19 year old from Edgerton asked the council to consider past prohibition cases in Florida and Texas that were thrown out because the courts saw them as age discrimination. He pointed out this ordinance would take away rights that had already been granted to people who are now 18, 19 or 20 and asked council to please consider “grandfathering” them if they passed this ordinance.
Referring to Dr. Jensen’s use of the phrase “public enemy number one.” Lee Moore, council member, wondered what would be public enemy number two that council would next be asked to prohibit to citizens.
”One of the things that was really telling to me was when the young man stood up here and asked if we would please grant him his rights,” Moore said. ”It’s absurd to me. It’s offensive to me – that he would have the impression that my job up here is to grant him his rights. He was given those rights by virtue of his birth in this country. Period.”
This comment drew applause.
Steve Shute, council president, said that he had seen his parents die due to smoking and was well aware of the dangers, but could not support this prohibition type of move.
“I am not interested in using the heavy hand of government to force an individual to make a healthy decision for themselves.”
Shute concluded, “I want to vote on this tonight because we’re going to vote it down, and it’s for very good reason.”
Todd Winters, council vice president, who was responsible for bringing the issue before council, said he thought the information was good, and his heart wanted to vote in favor of it, but now found he struggled with the personal liberty aspect of it.
The council voted 5-0 to decline adoption of the Tobacco 21 ordinance.
Gardner became the third area city in Kansas to reject a proposed ‘Tobacco 21’ ordinance which would have raised the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Mission declined to enact a similar ordinance in December, and Merriam did the same in February.
Olathe is the only Johnson County city to pass Tobacco 21 so far, however Prairie Village is also going to vote. Both Iola and Kansas City, Kansas have raised the age limit in recent months. Wyandotte County has done so as well.
Presentation by county commissioner
John Toplikar, 6th District County Commissioner, gave a presentation on projects the county has planned or are currently under way.
There are three CARS road projects and two county public works road projects in the works in Olathe, Gardner and Edgerton.
Toplikar also spoke about projects in the county’s parks master plan including: Rieke Lake Park west of DeSoto, Cedar Niles Park in Olathe on 119th Street and Big Bull Creek in Edgerton.
The master plan for Big Bull Creek Park was approved on March 16, 2016. Toplikar distributed copies of a large map showing details of the Big Bull Creek Park master plan.
He also mentioned the sewer project that is at Gardner Lake which he said he expected to be completed in March, 2017.
Toplikar invited the public to attend any of three informational open house sessions, on April 4th, 7th and 11th, to learn about the proposed new courthouse and coroner facilities in Olathe.
Toplikar also discussed developments at New Century, BNSF Logistics Park, Med Act and the public libraries.
Awards and Recognition
For the second year in a row, the Government Finance Association of the United States and Canada has awarded the City of Gardner their Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.
Officer Ryan Sumner of the Lenexa Police Department and Trails West Ace Hardware were recognized for their contributions to the Gardner Police Department K9 Unit.
The Prothe family of Gardner was recognized as Special Olympics Family of the Year for the Kansas City Metropolitan Region.