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Ironwood commission split on parks smoking ban



Ironwood — After considerable public input from former city officials, the Ironwood City Commission on Monday approved a list of parks to be considered for an outdoor smoking ban.

On a 3-1 vote, commissioners recommended only Curry Park, Randa Field, Miners Memorial Heritage Park and the Mt. Zion Park remain open to outdoor smoking. Eleven other parks or playground areas would have a smoking ban.

Brandon Tauer, a law enforcement officer, voted against commissioner Jim Mildren’s motion, saying an outdoor smoking ban in city parks would be a “nightmare” to enforce. He said he doesn’t smoke, but banning smoking would be an example of too much intrusion by government into people’s lives.

Tauer said the real problem is littering at Depot Park and there are already laws on the books against that. He said Mildren’s recommendation opens up “a can of worms.”

Mildren said he has seen smokers drive away people from the pavilion at Norrie Park.

Commissioner Rick Semo thought a ban would be enforceable, however. His motion to ban smoking in all parks but Curry failed for a lack of a second.

With Semo and Mildren supporting the motion, Mayor Annette Burchell cast the swing vote for the ban in the parks recommended by Mildren.

Kim Corcoran was absent.

The ban isn’t settled yet.

Ironwood Community Development Director Michael Brown said the next step in the process will be to draft an ordinance based on the commission’s recommendation. There will be a public hearing on the issue before commissioners vote on the final draft.

Under public comment, former city commissioner Louise DeMasi asked how many complaints have been received by public safety officers about smoking in the parks. She said if officers go around ticketing smokers, people will criticize the city for having too many police with nothing to do.

“We have a drug problem we can’t take care of. We can’t go around chasing cigarette butts,” DeMasi said. She said smoking should either be allowed in all parks, or rejected in all parks.

Former city manager Keith Johnson said as many as 2,000 people attend Festival Ironwood at Depot Park on a Saturday night and they now are allowed to smoke outside the big tent, which has worked out well. He agreed smoking shouldn’t be allowed in park areas where there are children, however.

Former Ironwood Public Safety Department Director Leroy Johnson said state and federal smoking laws pertain to confined areas and statutes don’t address smoking in open air spaces.

But Brown said the city attorney said smoking can be banned by the commission in some or all city parks.

Paul Kostelnik, of the Friends of the Miners Memorial Park, noted the city’s parks and recreation committee was deadlocked 3-3 on the issue.

Kostelnik said the vast Miners Park should be smoke-free because studies show only 17 percent of park visitors are smokers.

Commissioners did not discuss the issue of the cost of smoking ban signage in the parks.

The public hearing on the matter will likely come at the beginning of a commission meeting, to be announced.


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