To smoke or not to smoke

Mayor Luis Marquez, presumably with the support of Councilman Fernando Vasquez, is expected to ask fellow council members next week to consider restrictions on smoking at Downey parks.Marquez said he is meeting with city staff members today before making a final decision, but the issue will likely be on the agenda for next Tuesday's council meeting. A recently-announced candidate for state Assembly, Marquez said he has noticed a growing number of people smoking cigarettes at local parks. "When I've gone to the park with my kids for (soccer) practice, at Apollo and Furman parks, I've seen an increase in folks smoking," Marquez said Wednesday. "There's also the issue of litter and cigarette butts. I just want to have a discussion about this." The mayor emphasized that under his proposal, any restrictions on outdoor smoking would be limited to parks only. There already seems to be a growing - if not manufactured - campaign against outdoor smoking in Downey. As of Wednesday morning, the city had received at least three letters within a one week span encouraging an ordinance against lighting up a cigarette outside. In a letter to the City Council, the American Heart Association expressed its "strong support for smoke-free parks and smoke-free public events." "The American Heart Association is very supportive of your efforts to amend the City's municipal code to adopt strong tobacco control policies that would protect the health of the residents and visitors of Downey in the area of parks and public events," said the letter, which was signed by organization chair Bob Larlee. The American Lung Association went a step further, asking the city to "promote a policy that creates smoke-free outdoor areas to protect non-smokers, to reduce tobacco trash, and set a healthy, smoke-free example for our youth." This newspaper, in fact, received a letter from a resident aligning herself with the "Downey Fresh Air Coalition." The city received a letter from Downey High School student Rebekah Jin (a contributor to the Patriot) in which Jin also listed herself a member of the Downey Fresh Air Coalition. You'll remember that it was councilman Vasquez who originally placed the outdoor smoking ban on the agenda two months ago, but it was never formally discussed due to Vasquez's absence. If the council takes up the outdoor smoking ban next week as expected, Marquez will have to convince his colleagues that the latest proposal isn't a political ploy to simply pad his resume heading into campaign season. And he will have to qualm the concerns of residents, who may not take kindly to having more of their rights stripped away, even in the name of public safety. Finally, Marquez will have to convince all of us that smoking in Downey's public parks is indeed a real problem. Before this week, how many complaints have council members received regarding smoking in public parks? Councilman Mario Guerra is on record stating his opposition to "any effort to add any unneeded restrictions on our residents." The votes, then, will come down to Mayor Pro Tem Roger Brossmer and Councilman David Gafin, who will need to decide on the proposed bans legitimacy and necessity.

********** Published: October 20, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 27