Idle no more: handicap parking re-jigged as council stomps butts
The final steps to conclude the downtown renovations will include new blue and yellow curb paint, new signs, and perhaps some ashtrays will abut council’s decision in April to not prohibit smoking in public areas.
On the heels of Monday’s committee-of the whole decision to purchase the street furniture as originally laid out by ISL architects and city staff, the discussion turned to other streetscape details.
Handicap parking departs from bureaucracy, arrives in reality
Coun. Kathy Wallace asked Public Works Manager Darrin Albo what might be done about designated handicapped parking stalls downtown that may not be in the right location.
Albo said the jurisdiction of the decision “is a mix between highways [Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] and the city. “When we meet with the local highway guys right here, we’re hoping we’ll be able to convince highways,” he said.
He agreed, “The handicapped stalls just don’t work, they’re not in the right places. When highways comes over next week, we’ll have a discussion. The local guys likely won’t care where we put them now, now that it’s out of higher planners hands. We’ll make some kind of agreement to change things around.”
Coun. Kathy Moore pointed out that the handicap stall beside the library doesn’t have a ramp. “And the one outside the Prestige goes down an incredibly steep ramp,” she said. “It might be better to have the handicap stall down below [in Prestige parking], so the one stall up top could have two or three cars instead.”
Coun. Cary Fisher said, “Out of respect to people with mobility issues, perhaps we should direct staff to bring us a report.” The other councillors agreed.
Coun. Jill Spearn asked about the blue curb paint, “Do we have to have that?” Albo replied yes, “it’s a standard.”
He noted that other problems will be solved by some yellow curb paint, for example at the bus stop outside the Drift where people have sometimes parked.
Idling vehicles and leashed dogs
Moore asked about the anti-idling bylaw and the leashed-dog bylaw, and whether signage was in the works to address these issues.
Albo said the dog signs are “just in print” now. “Anti-idling?” he continued. “I’m not going to say, I’m not involved in that. Maybe the planning department?”
Moore clarified, “Anti-idling has come up a few times [in the last year] and I thought it was included [in the streetscape plan].”
Wallace was not in favour of more signage for idling in addition to the dogs, “in the interest of not having don’t do this don’t do that all over the place.” She suggested another signage approach might be “idling gets you nowhere.”
Albo said they were “struggling” with the signpost issue. “We don’t want signposts everywhere, there’s nothing worse than a whole whack of signposts downtown,” he said, noting that it’s an operations “nightmare.” Consequently they’re trying to use “more blue paint, yellow paint, and just a few signs here and there.”
Spearn agreed, “I don’t like the signpost concept much myself. The circle with the line through it is kind of tacky. As for idling, the fewer signs on posts downtown, I’m in favour.”
Council discussion favoured self-enforcement for the bylaw, with residents merely asking offenders—typically delivery trucks—to please turn off their engines. Some councillors noted that idling was a problem, where others had not noticed a problem.
Moore said, “If we’re not going to put signs up, then we need to communicate better to the public, which we haven’t done a great job on,” referring to plans for more council newsletters that have not come to fruition.
Spearn then raised the smoking issue again, the first time since council rejected a draft bylaw to ban smoking in public places earlier this month. (That story, which we did not report at the time, is recapped below.)
“Outside the cold beer and wine store I counted 15 cigarette butts in a planter,” Spearn said. “I asked the girl working there and she said they used to have a bucket of sand out there. People would get out of their car and put their butt in the sand bucket.”
“Do we need ashtrays?” she asked council. “We just had the smoking downtown conversation that didn’t go anywhere. I don’t want ashtrays downtown, but for the look of the community it could be better than big, tacky, plastic bucket ashtrays. I don’t want to see cigarette butts everywhere.”
Spearn made a motion to direct staff to come back with a recommendation regarding possible placement and types of ashtrays. She said she was interested in “subtle, good looking ashtrays in strategic locations; solid, heavy things people can’t remove.”
Albo said, “I agree. Harry LeFevre Square has butts everywhere, and there are options out there. I would like to see one by Harry LeFevre, it’s going to be a maintenance nightmare.”
Spearn asked if one ash try downtown would be enough. Albo replied, “No, you need 20 down there!” He said cigarette butts end up in a wide variety of places.
Wallace noted her opinion that cigarette butts have become a bigger problem “since the province instituted the three meter rule,” she said. “Now there are no ashtrays available anywhere. Most smokers are fairly conscientious, if they had an ashtray, they’d use it.”
As with the idling bylaw, Spearn recommended that council engage in “communication and education” through a council newsletter.
Council unanimously carried the motion.
Smoke free Rossland? Council butted out a possible ban in April
Back at the April 22 regular meeting of council, Moore made a motion for a broad ban on smoking in public areas such as parks, downtown, and other city gathering areas. The motion only received support from Spearn.
The impetus for the motion was provided by an April 8 presentation to council by Kerri Wall of the Healthy Communities Initiative. She argued that municipal councils have an important role to play in “collaborative efforts to address factors that keep us well,” as opposed to the “sick care” system we have that “looks after sick people” and absorbs more than 50 per cent of the provincial budget. By contrast, she said, education receives the second largest chunk of change, but that’s only 18 per cent of the total.
“We want more of a dual focus to keep people healthy to begin with,” she said.
Wall gave several suggestions, from support for affordable housing to support for local farms. She offered kudos to Rossland for its support of a farmers’ market, community garden, pedestrian friendly downtown core, and a focus on recreation.
She also said “smoke free spaces are a great step towards community health.” Tobacco reduction is one of “five pillars” that Wall said were “easy” decisions to improve public health.
On April 22, Moore said her motion was not intended “to tell people not to smoke. The point is to tell them to not smoke in certain places where other people don’t want to enjoy the benefit of their second-hand smoke.”
She noted that public smoking is not a big problem in Rossland and taking a stand would be “primarily symbolic,” but it would “show leadership” for a movement that has started as a grassroots effort. She cited experience from other communities that “implementation is not that hard.”
“Initially people resisted, but then people got over it and were happy they did,” she said.
Furthermore, based on a recent survey of Rosslanders, results showed 219 of 335 respondents favoured a ban in parks and city gathering spaces. “Everyone who wants a smoke free park should have that right,” Moore said. “There are plenty of other places to smoke.”
Mayor Greg Granstrom opposed the motion. He noted a similar motion put forward to the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) that was “overwhelmingly defeated” because it was “another example of a download” from higher government levels. He said the problem is federal income from cigarette sales, so “we should attack the problem where it is.”
Spearn disagreed. “It must happen at the grassroots level,” she said. “At the grassroots level, we can make a statement. [Higher governments] aren’t ‘downloading’ onto us, it’s common sense in 2013. Most of litter we picked up for Pitch In were cigarette butts.”
“I was a smoker for many years,” she continued. “I understand people have all kinds of addictions from chocolate to running.”
She said that at the AKBLG meeting people “came out and smoked cigarettes, and it billowed up into the balconies where we were sitting. It’s unfair.”
“I work with children,” Spearn said, “and the less children see people smoking cigarettes, the less inclined they are to pick up the habit.”
Blomme opposed the motion because a staff report on the subject “is pending already.” Staff was directed in March to consider a smoking ban, but only in a few downtown locations. Blomme said, “This option is pretty extreme. This feels really restrictive and extreme, jumping the gun since we have a staff report pending. I’m not really in favour of bylaws, especially not restrictive ones.”
Granstrom added, “I’m not in favour of bylaws that are symbolic or unenforceable.” He disagreed that it’s showing leadership “to ban a legal substance.” He asked, “What is council here to do? To issue core services to the municipalities. Making symbolic gestures, I’m not for it one bit, it’s not our business.”
Wallace also opposed the motion. “Our community deserves this conversation,” she said. “But we have to recognize that we have limited resources, and staff time is one of those: Bylaws cost money. If this is a municipal responsibility, which I don’t believe it is, what’s the best mechanism? I don’t believe bylaws are the best tool. I think this is followship, not leadership.”
Wallace took issue with Moore raising the motion as well: “I feel that one councillor has usurped the process council was going through and redirected council to this one motion. I heard Coun. Moore twice tonight speak about ‘her’ motion. I have a problem with that, we’re all members of a council, not individuals working for our personal agendas.”
She concluded, “Before we act on finding a solution, we better make sure we have a problem. In this case, I don’t think we do. I can go up and down main street and I know the names of the people who smoke, it’s three or four people.”
“I agree that there is an impact on children’s impressionable minds, and it would be best to remove that from their environment,” she said, but felt that was “happening anyways” as part of a societal movement.
Coun. Tim Thatcher opposed the motion, “To me, it’s not a high priority at the moment. The motion is not just public parks, it’s affecting businesses.” He added, “I’m not a smoker myself and I don’t like second hand smoke.”
Moore defended the motion, “This wasn’t a thing to be a leader for leadership’s sake. It’s a health issue province-wide, and a lot of change happens by starting at a grassroots level.” She noted that Interior Health and other larger scale organizations have lots of experience and help available to reduce the burden on municipalities’ staff to prepare actions such as this.
To Wallace she replied, “We have different views about whether councillors can or cannot make motions. I personally think it’s an important part of my job.”
“Having said that,” she continued, “I didn’t think there was a breath of chance this would pass. I really appreciate Coun. Spearn’s support on this. We’re going to have to agree to disagree.”
Blomme said, “Restuarant owners can put a no smoking sign on their patios, leave it up to restaurant owners themselves.”
Where Spearn had been convinced by the Healthy Communities presentation on April 8, Blomme said, “I felt a bias from the presenters, and also some intolerance and judgement on it. It makes sense from the microcosm of their office to be anti-smoker, but without that social norm in my life, it turned me off, it felt like intolerance and turned me the other way.”
Spearn came to the motion’s defence: “I’m taken aback by some of the comments Coun. Wallace made. It’s our job as councillors to bring motions forward. We don’t have to bring motions together.”
“Smoking is a proven health hazard,” she continued. “When Coun. Blomme says the presentation shows intolerance, it’s a proven fact that smoking is a serious health issue and costs all of us in society because of those health issues.”
“It’s not all pipes in the ground and roads to be paved,” Spearn said. “We could have a declaration, as with plastic bags, to make a comment to the public, to the community, that council would be hopeful people would respect the public places. There are other methods, other ways to do that. We don’t have to go into a huge argument and say things that are not hugely appropriate to the motion. I wish our community could be as healthy as possible.”
The April 22 motion was defeated with only Moore and Spearn in favour.