For weeks, City Commissioner Randy Leonard had the town talking over his grand idea to ban smoking entirely from all city parks—he even casually mentioned he'd be open to extending the ban to sidewalks. Ultimately, though, by the time the discussion got to city council on Thursday, January 11, he'd backed off the strict rule—but not before getting near consensus on a plan to ban smoking "within a reasonable distance" of nonsmokers at parks.
Or, as one of his colleagues said with a grin after the council session, "By pushing for an extreme position, he managed to win in the middle. I don't think he knew he was that clever."
The city attorney will be working with Leonard and Commissioner Dan Saltzman's offices to come up with legal language, and they'll be presenting it in the coming weeks.
The council hearing was filled with all manner of interesting questions—how far is "a reasonable distance"? What if you're smoking at a reasonable distance, but then a nonsmoker walks near you? What if you're a registered sex offender, and you want to still be able to hang out in locker rooms and swimming pools?
On that last one, you might be screwed. And I don't mean screwed in a good way. Part of Saltzman's package keeps sex offenders out of certain areas, and that elicited the most unexpected testimony I've ever heard at city hall. A middle-aged man with a shaved head—who described himself as a registered sex offender—implored council to not "further isolate an already marginalized community."
"Sex offender mania has swept the country," he said. He later added, "We're not the monsters we're made out to be—we've done something stupid and a price was paid for it."
Meanwhile, and in completely unrelated news, city council is hearing a resolution on January 24 that will create an oversight committee for the controversial "sit-lie ordinance," which is now applicable only to "high traffic pedestrian areas" downtown and in the Lloyd District. The creation of an oversight committee was necessary to get homeless advocates to sign off on the new rule—the committee will be making sure that city council backs up its promises to provide benches and a day access center for the homeless.
It comes not a moment too soon—the new ordinance could be enforced as early as the end of this month.
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