By David Anderson
When city leaders sit on the smoking-ban-in-parks fence, hiding behind yours is not an option.
There’s a line in the movie “Savannah” that follows the opening of a gift presented by Lucy Stubbs (Jaimie Alexander) to her lover Ward Allen (Jim Caviezel).
Removing the wrapper and lifting the lid of the small box, Allen eyes the contents and casts a quizzical look at the “spirited high-society lass” who has somehow been drawn to this “colorful contrarian.”
The gift is a pen offered by Stubbs to Allen as his “new weapon,” Stubbs suggesting the fervor and marksmanship for which Allen has become at the same time both famous as a duck hunter and for that matter infamous – given he can’t resist violating the law – should now be directed at those very laws that to him, at least, flew in the face of what he viewed was right.
Similarly, in the film “Jack Reacher,” is this very last line: “There’s this guy. He’s a kind of cop, at least he used to be. He doesn’t care about proof, he doesn’t care about the law, he only cares about what’s right.”
While neither Reacher nor Allen was beyond reproach, they had this to commend them: there was no doubt where they stood in their fight for what they believed was right.
“We’ve become a society of wusses,” headlines the article by “award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons, a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and, since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor” among numerous other responsibilities.
Simmon’s contention, along the lines of Allen and Reacher, is that what is right – and speaking, or writing, to uphold what is right – trumps every other argument.
In fact, pause for a moment in reading this and hold up one hand. Label every finger on that one hand with the single word: ‘right.’ Then close that hand into a fist and progressively, finger-by-finger, extend them – beginning with the thumb – each time the word ‘right’ occurs as you read, out loud, the following:
‘Right is right because it is right, right?’
And your little pinky answers?
Simmons says “there was a time when a rule was a rule, and (in the case of youth – one of many examples Simmons lists) that with few exceptions all children were taught to adapt to them.”
Or, as someone else put it, “‘No,’ is a complete sentence.”
This emphasis upon ‘right’ and conversely what is wrong, and what is the right decision to make especially concerning youth, has everything to do with the current debate among Lakewood City councilmembers as to “whether to ban smoking and other tobacco use from the city’s 12 parks,” (while incongruously and for that matter hypocritically, allowing alcohol in those same parks as long as a significant fee is paid upfront).
Brynn Grimley reporting this past January 19 in the Tacoma News Tribune notes that “roughly 1,000 people in Pierce County die each year from tobacco-related diseases, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.”
Given this grim statistic, Grimley lists Tacoma having banned tobacco products from its parks five years ago; and Puyallup in 2005; and Gig Harbor in 2007; and Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District in 2012; with Pierce County likely to follow.
But Lakewood cannot connect the dots? The council has overturned the unanimous decision by its park’s department that had favored a ban.
And why would that be?
Lakewood Councilmember Mike Brandstetter is reported to have said that “he has a hard time envisioning how authorities would enforce a smoking ban.”
With a combined 20 years of enforced tobacco-free parks in neighboring jurisdictions, that question shouldn’t be all that hard to answer.
According to Grimley’s article, Councilmembers Marie Barth and newly elected John Simpson expressed similar sentiments.
“I just don’t think we need somebody telling us what to do all the time, every day, everywhere we go,” said Barth.
“It’s not the city’s place to ban smoking or chewing tobacco outdoors,” said Simpson.
And what is the city’s place? And what is the job of the city council?
Number four (of eight) on the Council’s Priority list is to “improve the quality of life.”
Take a one-minute, forty-five second video tour of Lakewood and the first words extoll the city’s reputation as being one of the nation’s best 100 places for young people.
So what about those young people and their – and our – quality of life?
An article in the Tacoma News Tribune, May 6, 2008 (A4), was headlined, “Bans seem to discourage kids from picking up habit.” The habit referenced was smoking and the article described what happened when teens witnessed “a community sending the message frowning upon (tobacco) use.”
Here are a couple excerpts:
“A Massachusetts study suggests that restaurant smoking bans may play a big role in persuading teens not to become smokers.
“Youths who lived in towns with strict bans were 40 percent less likely to become regular smokers than those in communities with no bans or weak ones.”
Sure the specific venue in the Massachusetts study concerned restaurants. But extrapolate that message to include parks – like Barth exacerbates to every living, breathing moment of life – and you have a three-fold ‘back-at-you’ right-thing-to-do message for the City Council:
One: Bans work.
Two: Bans are the responsibility of government that gives a rip about their youth.
Three: Government bans benefit youth simply by sending the message that we care about them and frown upon behavior we know is harmful to them.
And to the rest of us for that matter.
Quality of life, and all that.