Monday, January 1, 2007

Smoke Eater Harris

An anonymous comment, posted just last week to a post that I made way back in November, alerted me to a story I had missed during my recent trip away from the Burgh. As the commenter remarked:

... when the media asked [Pittsburgh City Councilmember] Darlene Harris why she included in her budget a "smoke Eater" for her office which is a non-smoking building, she stated that "when she is working in her office at 10:30 at night she wants to be able to smoke. Am I getting this right? We the taxpayers are paying for her to have a smoke eater in her office in a building which is smoke free? She is breaking the city "rules" and we are to pay for it? Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?"
It didn't take much digging to find the Post-Gazette story that the commenter is referring to:
Smoking has been banned in the City-County Building since 1989 by legislation that called for a $50 fine to be imposed for the first offense.

That hasn't stopped City Council members from lighting up.

Last week, the city received delivery of a Trion Eliminator Series SE 800E, an air conditioner-sized, ceiling-mounted device informally known as a smoke eater. It went to new Councilwoman Darlene Harris' office.

Does she smoke in the office? "If I'm here until 10:30 at night, yeah, I'll have one," she said.
So, to answer my anonymous commenter's question, yeah, it certainly does seem to be the case that the city taxpayers just shelled out nearly $1,300 so that Darlene Harris can break both city and county law and smoke in a building that the taxpayers have, for nearly 20 years now, demanded to be kept smoke-free.

Just to be clear, the unit that we purchased for Ms. Harris is not merely a simple air-conditioning unit. It is purposely designed to eliminate the odor of tobacco smoke. This means that Ms. Harris's rather weak excuse that, "... the device is primarily intended to address the chronic stuffiness in her office..." is nothing but pure bullshit. A regular air conditioning unit could have done that at far less expense.

An even better solution would have been to simply let Ms. Harris smoke and collect the established $50 fine from her each time she did so. Then we could have actually made some money from her disgusting habit. Instead, it's costing us some pretty serious bucks to facilitate her criminal behavior. She, of course, sees no problem at all with this expense:
Ms. Harris said her order for a smoke eater didn't put the lie to the famed frugality she practiced as a city school board member for eight years, when she regularly took the figurative kitchen knife to budgets. She hasn't ordered any new furniture, she noted, and gestured to a shelf of cleaning supplies "that I paid for with my own money ... I think we're a cost-efficient office here."
Oh, so we should be happy because we are saving a bundle on cleaning supplies, should we? I'm not so sure that any trip to Sam's Club to purchase Windex is going to compensate for the costs of Ms. Harris's habit. The hotel where my family stayed on our trip to and from Florida last week is 100% non-smoking. If you smoke in one of their rooms, they will charge you $250 to get rid of the smell and make things right for the next guest. If it costs $250 to clear a single hotel room of the stench from just one smoker's stay, imagine how much it will cost to rid her office suite of the stench of Ms. Harris (not to mention her cigarettes) after her term in office comes to a close.

Buying Ms. Harris a device which allows her to smoke in a smoke-free building, in violation of city, county and (hopefully soon) state law makes about as much sense as buying her an extra-strong bull bar bumper for her car, so that she can swat those pesky pedestrians out of the way as she drives back and forth to work each day. What she is doing is against the law. It's illegal. I can't even begin to understand why the city taxpayers should be expected fund any effort to help a councilmember commit a crime.

If Ms. Harris wants this device so damned bad, let he pay for it out of her own personal (and very generous) cleaning supply fund.


Anna said...

Doug Shields and Marlene Cassidy also think it's funny that they smoke in city hall. Doug should be more respectful of Corey O'Connor's future office space, and we really don't expect much of Denny's girlfriend anyway, despite her $70,000 salary.

Mark said...

Right on!

Playing upon the blog's theme:

+ Hong Kong has gone smoke free as of Jan 1, 2007 too.

+ Beijing pledged to be smoke free throughout most of the city by the 2008 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, some on Grant Street drag their feet.

And the health department is going to hire its first smoking enforcement officer in the weeks to come.

Do you think the uniform will come with a red arm band?

BiggAndyy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steevo said...

As somebody who used to be in and out of LOTS of offices downtown, it is really disgusting how many people still smoke in their offices. The city county building seems to be the most lax about it.