WALNUT CREEK -- Councilman Justin Wedel's effort to repeal bans on smoking and plastic bags, which he called part of his duty in defending the Constitution and defending citizens from intrusive government, has failed.
Wedel did not submit to the city clerk in time the more than 4,000 signatures -- for each petition -- necessary to get initiatives on the November ballot asking voters whether they want those bans repealed.
Wedel formed a group called Speak Up for Walnut Creek, and its supporters helped gather signatures. While the signature drive was ultimately unsuccessful, the group is still tallying the total. Wedel says they got close to the needed 4,000.
The feedback from voters was positive on both issues, he said.
"But the time necessary to educate the public on the adverse impact of these overreaching bans was too long, especially with the lack of complete, and accurate, information put forth by ban advocates and public education efforts," Wedel said.
He started this petition drive in November, soon after the council adopted its secondhand-smoking ordinance that prohibits smoking in public places, all of downtown and inside multifamily housing. Wedel's initiative still would not have allowed smoking in public places but would have reversed the ban inside people's homes.
The proposed initiative on plastic bags would have overturned the council's more recent decision to outlaw single-use plastic bags by grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants.
His views on both issues have not changed.
"My personal belief remains that market-driven solutions are best, that smoking bans in multiunit residential areas are really about property rights, and that a ban on plastic bags comes at a cost to small businesses, consumers, the community health and our environment," he said.
Overall he thinks the initiative drive was beneficial, even if not ultimately successful.
"I have appreciated the debate and valid arguments from people on all sides of the issues," he said. "Engaging in a public conversation helps educate the broader community about these issues."
But it has also put Wedel squarely on his own on a council where every other member voted to pass the bans. And some on the council have openly disagreed with not only Wedel's opinion but with his tactic of using the initiative process to get around defeat on a council vote.
Mayor Kristina Lawson was always confident the council's decisions on both bans were supported by residents.
"With these two ordinances, the City Council listened to the community and took clear and direct steps to protect the public health, safety and welfare," she said. "I believe the citizens of Walnut Creek want the city to stay the course rather than change course through an initiative."
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.