Monday, September 21, 2009

Protect Me!

When local Traverse City officials contemplate the banning of smoking in city parks I have to think of them as being good faith operators. I believe that they want to eliminate smoking for all the right reasons.

"People need to understand that parks should encourage active lifestyles and healthy living. That's what parks should represent," said Nathan Elkins, chairman of Traverse City's Parks and Recreation Commission.
When did it become the de facto purpose of public lands to set a social agenda, and when this purpose was determined, why was it universally decided that the lands in question needed to celebrate a healthy lifestyle rather than say, a lifestyle of freedom? Aren't both necessary to harbor the wonders of a functioning democracy? (Well, actually no. A functioning free society could theoretically be created and maintained by a bunch of pot bellied pork eaters, while a society of physically fit humans can live in a virtual boot camp with practically no freedom? Sorry, I like to quibble.)
The parks commission recommends city commissioners adopt a total smoke-free policy for city parks because it would be easier to enforce than an ordinance that called for no smoking within so many feet of playground equipment, pavilions and such, said Lauren Vaughn, the city's parks and recreation superintendent.

"I think this is a great idea," said Commissioner Jim Carruthers.

Carruthers is often frustrated by smokers who litter by throwing their cigarette butts on the ground, litter that eventually washes into storm drains and into the bay, he said.
I admit that smokers leave those little butts laying everywhere, and they have no one to blame but themselves for the scrutiny that this creates, heck, dog owners have to pick up more disgusting things when Fido does his business, but aren't there already anti-littering ordinances on the books to keep slobbish smokers from tossing trash on the ground?

Why does a difficulty in law enforcement have to result in the restricting of freedoms instead of the expansion of freedom?
Others agreed.

"I think this is a step we should take for public safety, if nothing else," said Commissioner Ralph Soffredine.

Lisa Danto, coordinator for the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition, said second-hand smoke is dangerous -- even outdoors -- considering how many children use city parks. Additionally, adults who smoke in city parks set a bad example for young people, she said.

"If kids see that it's normal, they are more likely to try it," Danto said.

A proposed ordinance will be written for city commissioners to consider, said R. Ben Bifoss, city manager.
Of course, the most talked about reason behind this sort of ordinance is the protection of park users from the dangers of second hand smoke.

We will see how seriously city commissioners take this safety crusade if their attempts at protecting the health of park users end at outlawing smoking in parks while allowing the insidious use of particulate producing campfires and the consumption of carcinogen laden grilled animal meats on property.

How else are we to judge the sincere benevolence of our rulers if we are not equally protected from all potential danger?

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