By Charlene Bielema
Deciding that its action actually will underscore state law, the Clinton City Council has taken a step toward banning tobacco at city-sponsored youth events.
The Rules and Regulations Committee has been discussing the issue, with the council picking up the talks as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday night.
Six separate items were listed in the Committee of the Whole agenda as part of a tobacco-free phase-in plan but the council approved further consideration of only the first item on the list, which includes banning tobacco at facilities that have structured youth activities and events. Listed on the proposal are Jurgensen Soccer Park, Emma Young Softball Complex, Mayer Park Softball Fields, Pony League Baseball Fields in Riverview Park, Clinton Junior Baseball at Honeywell Park and George Morris Park and Clinton Junior Football at Emma Young Park.
Riverview Swimming Pool will be added to the list as well; however, places that are leased to other organizations, such as Honeywell Park, ultimately will not be listed since they are leased, city officials said. The state law banning smoking there still would apply, however.
The council voted to move the proposed ban to the next City Council meeting after the council voted 4-2 to do so, with At-large Councilmen John Rowland and Charlie Mulholland dissenting.
Rowland said he was voting no because he believes government should not step into such areas of regulation and that if the state really wanted to get at the root of the issue, it would stop granting licenses for businesses to sell tobacco.
Director of Parks and Recreation Gregg Obren told the council that the reason for the ban is to improve the health of Clinton residents.
“We’re talking about trying to change a culture,” Obren said. “It’s not going to come overnight. It’s going to take a while to get there.” See video of Obren's comments by clicking here.
Other possible steps the council could take in the future, listed in order of priority, include banning tobacco at unstructured youth areas and activities, at festivals on city-owned land, in the common areas of all parks, at and near Eagle Point Park Lodge and at adult softball events.