Local smokers may soon find themselves at a loss for a place to light up in public as, after five months of discussion, the decision to ban smoking and electronic or vapor smoking devices will appear before the Turlock City Council on Tuesday.
The item originally appeared before the Arts, Parks, and Recreation Council in August 2014, when local Girl Scouts Troop 3289 requested the commission consider the ban. This sparked a response from some community members like Larry Clinton, a self-proclaimed smoker since 1956 who finds the potential ban an infringement upon his rights.
"You're trying to take a freedom away and we've already lost enough freedoms," said Clinton at the September commission meeting where the Girl Scouts made a second presentation with the support of Regional Health and Safety Planning Coordinator Ken Fitzgerald of the Stanislaus County Office of Education.
After the item was discussed at two commission meetings, City staff dug deeper into the issue only to be confronted with a surprising fact: a smoking ban was already in place.
"For whatever reason after the council took action on that item there was never any enforcement, never any signs posted," said Parks, Recreation & Public Facilities Superintendent Erik Schulze.
The 2003 prohibition of smoking was presented to the council by the Parks and Recreation Commission prior to its merging with the Art Commission in 2014.
In November, the Parks, Arts, and Recreation Council approved in a 6-2 vote the reaffirmation of an already existent smoking ban and on Tuesday the Turlock City Council will decide if it will reaffirm the ban as well. While staff recommends adopting a policy to ban tobacco and electronic smoking devices, the report states that the city is cognizant of citizens' concerns like those of Clinton:
"City staff is charged with managing a multitude of issues which often result in balancing the freedoms and interest of a few with the freedoms and interests of the greater majority. Although staff understands the concerns of those who wish to use tobacco related products and their desire to maintain their individual rights, when weighed against the impacts this activity has on the greater majority, staff believes it is in the best interest of the community to reaffirm the prohibition of tobacco portion of Resolution No. 2003-08..."
If approved, additional signs will likely be posted with the help of the Stanislaus County Office of Education's Smoke-free Park Initiative, which has agreed to help pay for education and signage costs.
Also on Tuesday the City Council is expected to:
• Identify smart revenue opportunities and ensure the most efficient use of resources with discussion of the Mid-Year Budget Review Report, which is aimed at guaranteeing current revenues and expenditures "are meeting expectations." Each department director will provide an overview of year-to-date expenditures regarding personnel and program budgets as well as revenue estimates.
• Consider a transfer of $24,000 from an account for Prevention Services to an account for "Recreation Grants" to support Police Activities Leagues Programs like Marty Yerby Summer Camp and/or Recreation on Wheels. Increased participation in after school and summer camp programs, for which the Prevention Services account exists, has resulted in increased revenues and staff determined it would be more beneficial to fund the PAL programs.
• Receive a report from the Director of Municipal Services Michael Cook on the City's water use in 2014.
The Turlock City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.