August 14, 2011
Post Star Editorial
By Ken Tingley
A controversy is smoldering in Glens Falls.
The Common Council quietly passed a law this past Monday that gave teeth to a previous no-smoking ban for city-owned parks, pools, beaches, playgrounds and other outdoor recreation areas.
The previous ban had no penalties. This law says that those convicted can be punished by a fine of up to $250, or imprisonment of up to 15 days, or both.
That startled some people and enraged others.
There seemed to be a vision of the Glens Falls Police Department backing up the paddy wagon to City Park and hauling off violators en masse.
Perhaps some pictured undercover officers leaping from bushes to snatch the offending matches and confiscate “your stuff” as evidence.
Imagine what it would be like doing time in the county pokey:
“What you in for?”
“Assault with a deadly weapon. How about you?
“Smoking a cigarette in the park.”
Glens Falls’ tough-as-nails stand on crime would be cemented.
“OK buddy, drop that cigar or I’m going to shoot.”
The story has become the most commented-on story on poststar.com, with comments sure to surpass 100 by the time you read this.
So, while the stock market crashed this past week, smokers burned over a park cigarette ban.
File this in the much ado about nothing file. The Common Council was simply trying to maintain its recreational areas for the enjoyment of everyone without having to constantly pick up cigarette butts.
But promoting a 15-day jail sentence in black and white sent the incense-burning mobs into a frenzied defense of their personal freedoms.
Some are talking of organizing and meeting in City Park in Glens Falls for a mass smoking demonstration as a display of civil disobedience.
You can’t help but wonder if this is how the London riots got started.
Still, it is hard to imagine a smoking infraction that would warrant a 15-day stint behind bars.
Seems like you would have to burn down the gazebo or regularly light road flares at the entrance to Crandall library to draw such disdain.
Often, the language of these laws is meant to show that the city means business.
Downtown, and City Park in particular, are as beautiful now as they have ever been. Most days I walk through, there are few people and I don’t ever remember seeing anyone smoking.
I find most smokers these days to be sensitive about their secondhand smoke.
But there are always a few that are not.
I don’t believe we will have to worry about overcrowding in the city jail any time soon.
There is still enough air for everyone.
Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at email@example.com. You can read his blog “The Front Page” daily at www.poststar.com or his updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley.