Providence, R.I. Mayor Jorge Elorza has followed through on his promise to veto an expanded smoking ban for the downtown core of his city, calling the ban an attack an attempt to criminalize poverty.
On Friday, the mayor released his veto, calling the ban a target on the homeless community and a waste of the police department’s resources. He went onto say that the city has made strides to reduce crime in recent years, and that is where the department’s focus should be.
Elorza also felt it counterproductive to be ticketing visitors and tourists who unknowingly light up on the wrong sidewalk.
The first reading of the ban was approved by the city council in early May by a 10-3 vote, but those numbers changed when it came time for the second reading and vote. During the vote on May 24, it passed by an 8-5 margin, an important change because it signaled the council might no longer have the 10 votes necessary to override a veto by the mayor.
The ban has not been without its critics, who call it a flawed means to drive the homeless out of the area, while also tasking the police force with an additional matter to enforce and risking a strain on relations between the department and the public.
The ban sought to prohibit the use of all tobacco products and electronic smoking devices in the Kennedy Plaza and Burnside Park areas, as well as throughout the surrounding neighborhood, though private residences are exempt. Violators would get a warning on their first offense, then would face a $50 fine for a second offense.
Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and home to roughly 180,000 people.