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Friction sparks Central Point recall —

Petitioners claim mayor, council members are arrogant, insulting —

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CENTRAL POINT-- Leaders in an effort to recall Mayor Bill Walton and two City Council members insist the issue goes deeper than an anti-smoking ordinance the council passed Tuesday. —

— It's not the smoking ban, said recall petition author Larry Thornton. That just adds fuel to the fire. It's about the arrogance and failure to listen. They actually insult and try to make fools of citizens who come to the council. —

— He charged Walton with slandering Central Point residents in letters to the editor and with picking fights with citizens who come before the council. —

— Walton, however, said that's sour grapes from a group of people who were trounced at the polls in 1998. —

— Don't let them tell you smoking's not the issue. I don't care if they do recall me. This is the best thing I've done in my life, he said. He also defended his letters to the editor, saying you bet I responded to every letter written by the other side. —

— The recall campaign began hours before the council voted 5-1 to ban smoking in almost all public places, including restaurants, banks, bowling lanes and workplaces. The ordinance excludes bars, private residences and rented rooms designated for smokers. —

— Under the city charter, the council must vote twice to approve an ordinance. The council will vote again Jan. 27; if it passes, the ordinance will take effect 30 days later. —

— Thornton, owner of the Old Center Cafe, is joined by former Mayor Rusty McGrath and ex-Councilman Lloyd Mann in his recall petition. They must get about 500 signatures to force a recall election of the mayor and about 150 signatures for each councilor. —

— Walton, campaigning for slow growth, defeated two-term, pro-growth Mayor McGrath in November 1998, but McGrath stresses he didn't join the recall because of his loss. —

— Larry started it, and they kept after me to join. I didn't start anything. I'm just stuck in the middle, McGrath said. —

— McGrath said if the recall is successful, he is not interested in being mayor again, unless he had an entire council supportive of his views. —

— The ban on smoking in public places will harm his shop -- McGrath Racing and ATV -- because, he said, he can't make customers stop smoking and they will just go to Medford to shop if he tries. —

— Thornton said the ordinance will cause his customers to seek restaurants in Medford with smoking sections. They're taking away my rights. I put my money, blood and life into this place and it should be my decision, Thornton said. —

— Walton said the smoking ban is a vital issue because 62 percent of Central Point voters want it and adults and policy-makers must set an example for young people. Smoking, he said, killed his father and causes almost a fourth of the deaths in Jackson County. —

— Nicotine is an addiction and 90 percent of smokers can't get off it, so the ban scares them to death. I can sympathize with them, but someone has to bite the bullet and say, `Hey, this is wrong.'