‘Eyesore’ or ‘freedom’?

City continues talks on smoking ban

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Boris Gerber of Alpena speaks to the Alpena Municipal Council about the council’s consideration of some type of smoking ban for city-owned parks.

ALPENA — The Alpena Municipal Council heard public input Monday about a possible smoking ban at city-owned parks.

The council has for weeks discussed the idea of prohibiting smoking in city-owned parks, including those along the Thunder Bay shorelines, such as Starlite Beach. On Monday, Mayor Matt Waligora said the council has been presented with the idea of banning all tobacco use — including vaporizers and electronic cigarettes– at city beaches and parks. Waligora said council could also do nothing or something in between, such as banning smoking only and not all tobacco use.

The council heard public comment from Alpena residents Boris Gerber and Angie Skiba.

Gerber, a member of the Island Wildlife Sanctuary Board of Alpena, read a letter saying that board supports a smoking ban. He said a concern is a fire occurring on Island Park, since there is a lot of smoking at the park.

“Our secondary concern is the littering that the cigarette butts create, both an eyesore and the work required by volunteers to cleanup,” Gerber said.

Gerber shared his own thoughts about the smoking ban. He said Alpena has the nicest city parks in any city he has been in and he said cigarette butts detract from the beauty of the parks.

Skiba said she is not in favor of the possible smoking ban because the city wants to promote tourism and the ban would keep people away from Alpena. She said the few people on the council should not impose limits on what the entire city can do in public.

Skiba also wanted to know how the council would police the ban if it is approved.

“I feel that, if you rule on this and just a few of you are making this decision for all of us citywide, what is our next freedom that will be gone?” Skiba said. “I think it’s a personal choice. I don’t choose to smoke, but if I am at a park and someone is smoking, I would just move.”

Waligora said the public input from Gerber and Skiba will be taken into account when the council discusses the possibility of a smoking ban at a future meeting. Councilman Mike Nowak was absent Monday, and Waligora said the discussion should continue at a meeting when all council members are present.

“As long as we make a decision before spring,” Waligora said.

In addition to whether or not to prohibit smoking, Waligora said the council would have to decide if it imposes the ban through an ordinance or a resolution.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.

In other business

The Alpena Municipal Council on Monday also:

∫ voted for A-1 Tree Service of Alpena as the city’s bagged leaf and lawn material pick-up company from 2019 to 2021.

∫ heard from City Clerk/Treasurer Anna Soik that costs for the Nov. 6 election were over $11,000 and voter turnout was at 54 percent.