The Pawhuska City Council decided to not consider a more restrictive no-smoking ordinance Monday, although members indicated they will pursue less forceful measures aimed at reducing tobacco-related problems on municipal property.
Council members discussed increasing no-smoking signage in certain problem areas. The council planned to consider an ordinance that would have prohibited smoking on all municipal property, easements and rights of way.
A new state law will take effect next month authorizing Oklahoma municipalities to adopt more restrictive anti-smoking ordinances, Pawhuska City Attorney Jesse Worten told the council. He also pointed out that the existing municipal ordinance prohibits smoking in local parks and on parking lots adjacent to them.
The city attorney said an enhanced no-smoking ordinance "can certainly be passed," but he added that there could be "a huge problem" regarding its enforcement.
"I just think it would be opening up a hornet’s nest," said Worten.
Councilman Mark Buchanan had a question about the ordinance under consideration.
"Would make it illegal for a person to walk down the sidewalk and smoke a cigarette?," asked Buchanan.
"If you read it literally, it probably would," the attorney replied.
City manager Paul McAlexander commented: "It could be a totally unenforceable ordinance."
Consideration of the enhanced smoking ordinance came after a mild complaint was heard at the Oct. 7 council meeting about cigarette butts littering the 7th Street staircase. City officials said they would be in contact with the agencies whose employees are believed to be responsible for the problem.
The current city law was passed two years ago after Osage Nation Communities of Excellence Program asked to put up no-smoking signs in city parks. Program Director Gail Boe told the council Monday that she believes the law has had a positive impact.
"That has given people the courage to go up to people and tell them about the law," said Boe.
Councilwoman Cathy Worten said enforcement of no-smoking and littering laws would further the cause.
"It would make them think twice about doing it," she said.
Several council members expressed gratitude to volunteers who have been working to improve the appearance along city entrance areas. The continuing efforts were started by a group called Citizens for Pride in Pawhuska.
"We had county personnel, seniors and missionaries all helping," Mayor Roger Taylor said. "There were some people out there who don’t even live in the city."
Another issue that came to light at the meeting that could be considered a reverse-beautification project when McAlexander informed the council that serious graffiti vandalism occurred over the weekend at the municipal skate park.
"It’s severe and we won’t be able to wash it off," McAlexander said, adding that action will be taken swiftly on the matter.