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Elorza ‘extremely disappointed’ Providence City Council overrides veto of smoking ban

The Providence City Council has voted to override the mayor's veto of an ordinance that will prohibit smoking in parts of the city's downtown. (MGN)

The Providence City Council has voted to override the mayor's veto of an ordinance that will prohibit smoking in parts of the city's downtown.

Supporters have said the ban is aimed at protecting the public from secondhand smoke.

Mayor Jorge Elorza vetoed the bill on June 2 after the council first approved it about a week prior .

In a letter to the council, Elorza said the true target of the ban is the homeless community. He said the ordinance would criminalize poverty and be ineffective.

"I’m extremely disappointed by the City Council’s decision to pass a bill that transparently criminalizes poverty," Elorza noted in a statement. "The enforcement of this ordinance is not a solution as it does nothing to address the problem at its root. It will place additional strain on our officers, waste resources and time, and will prove to be ineffective as it will only push folks to other locations. I will continue to work with our community partners to advocate for more effective solutions that do not target the homeless and poor."

Elorza went on to call it a "terrible policy."

"It's a waste of police resources and at best it's ineffective and that's why I vetoed it and I stand strongly against it," he told NBC 10 News.

The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union agreed, noting that it's more than just a ban against smoking.

“Our concern is this is really an ordinance not about public health but about kicking people out of Kennedy Plaza for who they are,” Steve Brown of the ACLU said.

The ban has been backed by a group of businessmen led by former Mayor Joseph Paolino, who is a major downtown property owner.

The vote effectively sets the ordinance into law.

(NBC 10 News contributed to this report.)

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