The city council will impose the latest version of the proposal in the coming months after a hefty eight month debate on the subject over several council meetings and a town hall.
The meeting in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 1 Plaza, Patterson, was attended by approximately 20 members of the public including more than a dozen teens.
Gabriel Chadwick, an eighth-grader at Creekside Middle School, spoke out against smoking in city parks and other public places.
“There might be people out there that don’t care a lot about others’ opinions,” he said. “But there are a lot of kids that go to parks that want to be healthy. They don’t go there because people are smoking.”
As a result of public outcry, staff will fashion a new ordinance that would create designated smoking areas in the parking lots of certain facilities, keeping parks free from tobacco use. The new ordinance also encourages members of the public to follow the rules rather than offer fines, which has been deemed nearly unenforceable by city council members in previous public discussions of the issue.
An originally proposed ban would’ve extended to all bike and hiking paths, as well as outdoor parks and recreational areas, according to a draft of the ordinance. Violators would face fines up to $1,000.
Though officials have said that there won’t be “smoking police,” first time offenders would’ve expected to pay a $100 fine. Subsequent fines of $250 to $1,000 would have applied for repeat offenders. City officials agreed with the sentiment of critics, however, stating they would not be able to enforce the measure.
“You have to be careful not to get government too big,” Councilwoman Deborah Novelli said at the Town Hall. “There are ways to influence things.”
City resident Mike Anderson said the city didn’t have the manpower to police smokers but needed to find a way to discourage it without infringing on others rights.
City resident Mary Clemmer, an outspoken critic of the ban, applauded the idea of proposing designated areas for smoking.
“I’m delighted to hear designated areas are being proposed,” she said. “It gives everyone an opportunity to work together in harmony.”
The City Council shelved an ordinance to ban tobacco use in parks at the regular Patterson City Council meeting Sept. 2, reversing course on a 3-1 vote two weeks prior, in favor of holding a workshop to work out the issue later.
The measure died because it was not brought up for a vote on the second reading after citizens raised concerns regarding the possible infringement of smoker’s rights.
After holding a town hall meeting to discuss a smoking ordinance that would ban tobacco use in parks with members of the public Dec. 9, the City Council decided to postpone a vote on the measure and schedule another town hall to gather more input from the public on Feb. 26.
Nick Rappley can be reached at 209-568-9975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.