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A sign that smoking is a side issue

January 31, 2003

It's perhaps the most redundant and least substantive proposal

addressing a so-called issue to hit the council dais in years, but I

do wish Glendale Councilman Gus Gomez had been given his way (mostly)

to restrict smokers in Glendale parks. Then everyone might have had

energy left to address the most appalling revelation in the entire

fiasco, actually facing up to the sorts of tough, real problems most

voters want them to address, everyday issues from which certain

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council members have been running at full speed in anticipation of

the upcoming election.

The argument at this week's council meeting was bizarre at times,

with supposedly mature adults wrestling over the distinctions between

creating "smoke-free zones" vs. "smoking areas," and the problems

inherent with each. But barely a feather was ruffled by a revelation

in the staff report related to enforcing the proposed new rules. If a

new ordinance was created, making and posting signs to let park users

know about the rule would cost the city $125 each.

Whether the sign would have said "No smoking area" or "smoking

area" is immaterial. The cost was estimated at $125 per sign, with a

total of $14,400 to post them in all 34 city parks. Yes, an eyebrow

or two went up at that figure. But when city staff clarified that the

amount also included the labor required to post the sign, every

objection vanished.

What became clear through much of the discussion was that a

recently enacted state law already provides a device to cite anyone

who smokes within 25 feet of a children's play area in a park. That

satisfied some council members, and for others it was only a small

step toward the total ban they'd prefer. But at least SOMETHING is

being done on that front. Now, when will someone finds the guts to

stand and declare, "Paying $125 per sign is outrageous, and this City

Council should do something about it, and root out any other

similarly absurd city spending!"?

As a smoker who's not proud of that status, and who's dim

intelligence is just sufficient to reach the level required to

acknowledge cigarette smoke can harm bystanders, I'm willing to take

public lumps. Go ahead and protect others, and occasionally go

overboard, because I surely deserve punishment. But inasmuch as

smoking citizens pay their share of taxes, and actually in most cases

much more than their share, it's patently unfair to tell them there's

no place for them to smoke outdoors in parks they pay for, too.

Some advocates of a complete ban compared it to stores,

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