By Claire Campbell
Gainesville smokers might soon be prohibited from lighting up in the city’s parks, including Bo Diddley Plaza.
The request was made by the city’s Recreation, Cultural Affairs and Public Works Committee, and the City Commission discussed an ordinance creating the ban at its meeting Thursday.
There was a general agreement among the seven commissioners that the ordinance would be beneficial, but some didn’t accept the ordinance as is.
Commissioner Charles Goston noted how many people are addicted to smoking and that such a ban would come with complications if people cannot afford the planned $25 fine.
“I think some more thought has to go into this policy,” he said.
Commissioner Randy Wells said he is against a fine in general, but favors $25 over the original proposed amount, $70.
“This is a community that doesn’t want kids smoking secondhand,” he said. “This is the right, clear message and very manageable.”
“We want the goal to stand out, not the clobber,” he added.
Commissioner Harvey Budd said there needs to be some changes to the proposal, like including designated smoking areas in parks.
“People will ignore an absolute ban” that doesn’t included designated areas, he said.
Mayor Ed Braddy said there could be a designated smoking section, but that he’d want to eventually get rid of it.
“Ultimately, we want smoke-free parks,” he said.
Braddy said he wanted a gradual approach to the smoking ban because he doesn’t want the ordinance to “drop the bomb” on people.
Assistant City Manager Paul Folkers said a main question rests in whether the city has the legal authority to institute such a ban.
But overall, he said, “staff preference is a prohibition of smoking in city parks.”
Despite the preference, the timeline of a possible vote on a ban and its institution is unclear. The commissioners did, though, ask the city attorney Thursday to draft an ordinance to bring to them for consideration.