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HUFFING AND PUFFING ARNOLD'S STAFF HITS THE ROOF AT RUMORS HE'LL OPEN UP DOME.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - Where there's smoke, there's steam.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's staff, in fact, is steamed at rumors the governor plans to tear up part of the Capitol dome to accommodate a smoking plaza for the stogie-lovin' gov.

Such rumors apparently have been spreading through the European media, and at least one American paper, The Washington Times, bought into it.

``It's absolutely ridiculous to imagine, let alone report, that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would remove California's historic Capitol dome so he can smoke an occasional cigar,'' said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh, who has demanded retractions on the stories.

``He's no longer the Terminator. He's a respectable California governor, and the stories are patently false.''

Of course, Schwarzenegger did install a tent over part of the courtyard outside the suite of governor's offices - a deal-making area, his staff calls it. He does smoke cigars there, but that's not its only purpose, and he could smoke there with or without the tent.

But he has no plans to alter any part of the Capitol building - and in fact couldn't without the Legislature's approval.

State law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of a state building, so the governor is careful to stay that far away when he breaks out a cigar, Carbaugh said. The tent in the courtyard is on loan from a private source, but he is planning to install his own covering with his own personal funds. The covering will be removed when he leaves office.

Schwarzenegger is known for using the courtyard to hash out deals with legislators and others - most notably during the intense negotiations in December over his proposed ballot measures. He wanted the covering in case of rain or the harsh sunlight that Sacramento can experience.

The rumors are persisting, even as the administration launches a new effort to crack down on tobacco use by minors. On Thursday, five state agencies announced a new campaign targeting tobacco retailers who sell to youths through additional surveillance, penalties and a new outreach campaign.

Still, anti-smoking activists are inflamed at the governor for presenting a pro-tobacco image.

Laurie Comstock, an Elk Grove woman who said she has lost 13 family members to tobacco-related disease, organized a rally recently to criticize the governor's well-publicized cigar habit.

``My No. 1 concern is the message he's sending to children,'' Comstock said. ``He is glamorizing cigar smoking and smoking in general by what he's doing. Cigars are addictive and deadly, too, and he's sending the wrong message to kids.''

Carbaugh's response is that Schwarzenegger is an adult with every right to enjoy the occasional stogie, and he is - other than the smoking thing, of course - a role model for kids.

``You will not find a better role model for health and fitness than California Gov. Schwarzenegger,'' she said. ``He frequently meets with youth organizations; he talks to them about the importance of eating well, exercising well and living a well-balanced life.''

Harrison Sheppard, (916)446-6723

harrison.sheppard(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 20, 2004
Words:498
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