The Turlock City Council unanimously voted to ban tobacco and electronic smoking devices in parks Tuesday night, but enforcing the new resolution could prove difficult.
While smoking has been illegal in City of Turlock parks since 2003, it took local Girl Scouts Troop 3289 to bring it to the Turlock City Council’s attention that the rule was not being enforced. The Girl Scouts appealed to the Arts, Parks, and Recreation Council in August of 2014 to consider banning tobacco and vapor emitting electronic smoking devices when, in compiling a report, City staff discovered that a ban was already in place as of 2003. After months of discussion, in November the Parks, Arts, and Recreation Council approved the reaffirmation of the existent smoking ban with the addition of electronic devices in a 6-2 vote.
Similar to the Commission meeting months ago that had Turlock resident and self-proclaimed smoker Larry Clinton publicly opposing the ban, Tuesday night Vernon Price asked the Council to consider the rights of smokers as well.
“We can’t just pinpoint out something stereotypically... Let’s take this into consideration on both sides,” said Price.
Nascimento also vocalized concerns about the role of government in terms of individuals’ rights noting that there are lesser ways of “infringing upon people’s rights to accomplish the same goal.”
“I would ask the council to be mindful that we don’t overstep our boundaries,” said Nascimento.
While the Council ultimately unanimously reaffirmed the ban with the addition of the Turlock Regional Transit Center at the request of Council Member Matthew Jacob, the City is now tasked with enforcing the resolution that slipped through the cracks over a decade ago. To ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself, Council Member Bill DeHart raised concerns regarding enforcing the ban.
“Do we have an enforcement concern?” he asked Tuesday night. “I would think under reduced police staffing and an increase in offenses I would think we might have a problem here.”
However, according to Director of Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Allison Van Guilder, education will be emphasized over penalizing citizens.
“There may be an expectation that there would be heavy enforcement, but that’s just not a reality right now,” said Van Guilder. “We would be looking towards our community partners such as the Girl Scouts, such as the Stanislaus County Office of Education, to partner with them on putting together education campaigns which would be our primary focus. Down the road we could have that discussion about enforcement, but that is truly not our primary goal at this particular time.”
The Stanislaus County Office of Education received a grant from the California Tobacco Patrol Program which could augment costs of signs in parks, for example.
As far as the Girl Scouts are concerned, DeHart seemed more inclined to leave the monitoring to the police.
“We certainly don’t want Girl Scouts becoming police officers. They have better things to do, like growing up,” he said.
However, Turlock Police Department Chief Robert Jackson said that the department will probably not make enforcing the smoking ban at parks a number one priority.
“Obviously this isn’t something we would want to do as a police department as far as a front line priority for us, but as with any other regulations there is out there… it is more of a compliance issue,” said Jackson. “We’re the final authority as far as dealing with any type of ordinances or state laws so it could impact us, but I don’t see it being a big issue. I really don’t see it being a big draw on our resources.”