The measure was scheduled for a vote at the meeting, which came as a surprise to some council members who were present and thought there would only be input from the public at the meeting. Two council members were absent—Councilman Larry Buehner and Councilwoman Deborah Novelli.
Stating that the meeting was supposed to be a town hall meeting and not a special city council meeting, Councilman Dominic Farinha said he wanted to schedule a town hall.
“I would not recommend taking action this evening,” he said regarding the ordinance. “I personally cannot make a decision tonight. I thought this was supposed to be a town hall meeting. I was under the impression there would be more in depth discussion. I’m frustrated.”
Mayor Luis Molina, who approves agendas ahead of the meetings as part of his position and has authored the measure said, “I don’t think this is as conducive town hall we’d like.”
City Manager Rod Butler said it was staff’s idea to put the measure on the agenda in case the council wanted to take a vote.
The ordinance that would ban smoking and chewing tobacco in public parks and recreation areas throughout the city passed its first test 3-1, Tuesday Aug. 20 at but not without a healthy debate on the subject. Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten was the lone dissenter. The measure stalled September 2 after councilmembers stated they wanted a public town hall on the matter to rewrite what they thought was an ordinance that could not be enforced.
The tobacco ban would extend 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 offender can expect to pay a $100 fine. Subsequent fines of $250 to $1000 would apply for repeat offenders. Officials have admitted, however, that they would not be able to enforce the measure.
Members of the public were, however, allowed to give their input on the subject to the council.
City resident Mel Clemmer said he thought the ordinance was unfair.
“I think the ordinance needs to represent all of the citizens of this town,” he said.
Former City Council candidate Dennis McCord agreed.
“We currently do not enforce the state law,” he said. “I think if we do pass an ordinance it needs to be completely re-written.”
Students from Patterson High School, while calling for compromise made it known they would like to see an ordinance regulating smoking.
“If you want to smoke, smoke at home, not at a park,” said Patterson High School Student Meg Guerrero. “Parks are for kids that is not the place.”