Smoking ordinance splits council
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Aug 28, 2013 | 2629 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An 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 the regular City Council meeting in the City Council Chambers at 1 Plaza, Patterson, but not without a healthy debate on the subject. Councilwoman Deborah Novelli was absent. Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten was the lone dissenter. The ordinance will be back before the council for a second and final vote Tuesday, Sept. 2.

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.

Patterson High School student Tina Oliva said she had a brother and sister trying to quit and it would be better if parks were smoke free.

“We’d like the opportunity to go to parks and not have to be in a smoking environment,” she said. “I support tobacco free parks.”

Fellow Patterson High School student Veronica Pulido said she had asthma and welcomed a smoke free park environment.

“I’ve had to walk through a park and hold my breath because of the second hand smoke,” she said.

Patterson resident Mary Clemmer said while she applauded those that chose not to smoke, she cautioned the council not to trample on the rights of smokers, either.

“These parks don’t belong to the smokers and they don’t belong to the non-smokers,” she said. “To restrict all smoking totally is a bad idea.”

She proposed that the ordinance provide for specific designated smoking areas for parks.

“Certainly there is a way for smokers and non-smokers to be together,” she said.

Councilman Dominic Farinha said he echoed Mayor Luis Molina, who brought the ordinance forward in saying that the measure is about making the city healthier.

“I’ve lost two or three relatives who didn’t smoke a cigarette and died from lung cancer,” he said. “I think this is worthwhile.”

Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten, a former smoker who quit three years ago, said she was torn on the issue. She didn’t want to impede the right of those to smoke, but understood others not wanting to breathe smoke.

“I have to say I agree with those in the audience that are siding with smokers,” she said, throwing out the possibility of designating some parks for smoking and banning smoking in others. “I’m kind’ve torn on the idea.”

Councilman Larry Buehner said he understood both sides.

“I can see the pros and cons, but if we are to pass anything we would need to have designated smoking areas.”

City Attorney Tom Hallinan said that while the ordinance did provide for smoking in designated areas, it didn’t actually provide any actual designated areas for smoking.

Molina said he appreciated the disagreement but the ordinance was about making Patterson a healthier place, something the Council unanimously committed to by resolution a year and a half ago.

“Not pursuing this is a mistake,” he said. “I’m not telling anybody you can’t smoke. But I don’t need to go to a park and inhale smoke.”

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.

Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31 or nick@pattersonirrigator.com.

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