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At the behest of its city council, City of Woodburn is preparing an ordinance proposal to prohibit smoking in city parks

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Woodburn is working on a proposed ordinance to ban smoking in public parks.Woodburn City Council put a process in motion that could ultimately ban any type of smoking inside city parks.

During its Monday, July 22, meeting, the council directed city staff to draw up an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in city parks, which it could consider for passage at a council meeting down the road.PMG FILE PHOTO - Robert Carney

The park ban conversation sparked up during the June 24 meeting when former Mayor Nancy Kirksey and Councilor Mary Cornwell broached the topic. Cornwell requested that staff look into it, and a report was presented to the council during the July 22, meeting.

"The council asked two questions, one of which was does the city have the legal authority to ban smoking and vaping in city parks? And the answer to that is, the city does," City Administrator Scott Derickson explained. "The other question was, what cities do this? And we undertook an informal survey, and there are some 25 cities that we identified that do."

Derickson said some of the cities that responded have had a ban in place for some time, while others have put a relatively recent one in place. He further noted that those bans varied: some only prohibited cigarettes, pipes and cigars; some prohibit vaping and e-cigarettes as well; some prohibit all forms of tobacco or nicotine products.

A handful of those Oregon cities on the list were in the Willamette Valley, including Mount Angel, Silverton, Stayton, McMinnville, Dayton, Sherwood, Tualatin and Independence.

Derickson said the process to enact such a prohibition would entail directing the city staff to work with the city's legal counsel to prepare an ordinance, which would then be presented to the city council.

Councilor Robert Carney posed the scenario of a person was walking down the street, legally smoking a pipe. But if the person stepped into a parking lot of a park, would that constitute breaking the law?

Derickson affirmed that in all likelihood the ordinance would probably define the parking lot as part of the park, but that level of specificity had not yet been explored or determined.

Carney urged the council to examine the topic more deeply and consider the broader ramifications of imposing such an ordinance.

"We're being asked to ban an activity that is considered lawful," he said. "It's a lawful activity that people engage in, but we're saying we don't want you to engage in it here.

"There are people who are going to be watching what's going on here tonight, and they are going to ask certain questions of us. They are going to say we as a civic body are going to demonstrate intolerance of a specific segment of our population."

Carney pointed out that, by and large, smokers represent a minority within the population.

"I think we have to be mindful of the fact that if we are going to demonstrate intolerance, we shouldn't be demonstrating intolerance against a minority," Carney said. "I'm fearful that the next person who comes to appear before us regarding our parks is going to petition us to not allow people to speak their native language in our parks, or something of that sort. That's something we should be very mindful of."

Councilor Eric Morris couched the topic as more of a community values issue, similar to an ordinance passed in recent years which prohibited parking cars in yards.

"This is what we value in the community, and this is where we are going to hold the line," Morris said. "I totally understand like you are talking about the slippery slope, but I think this would be one that easier to dig in on if we went farther down the road."

What's next

What: Woodburn City Council meeting

When: 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12

Where: Woodburn City Hall, 270 Montgomery St.

Contact/Web: (503) 982-5228, www.woodburn-or.gov/citycouncil


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