A cigarette/smoke-free downtown Keene may be a good idea. I’m open-minded, but I’m not writing to address it as an issue. I am writing to wonder, “Who is going to enforce such an ordinance if enacted?”
I suspect it will be enforced as vigorously as other ordinances and state laws, like dogs pooping here and there and owners not cleaning up. How about riding bicycles and skateboards on downtown sidewalks or not holding signs in hand in the common, to name a few? Let’s not forget “jay walking,” changing lanes without using a directional and drivers using handheld cellphones while operating a motor vehicle.
In full disclosure, I am a former city councilor and retired Keene police officer. I am not faulting the City Council for discussing the proposal or challenging the police department in any way for the apparent lack of enforcement of the aforementioned city ordinances and state laws.
As I understand it, the police department is currently understaffed by as many as five officers. Short staffing aside, even at full strength I believe it would be fair to say that on most days, at most times, police officers have more than enough to deal with, to the extent that confronting someone who is smoking downtown might not have enough priority at the time to be addressed. The same is true of dogs, bikes, skateboards and cellphones as well as a host of un- and under-enforced state laws.
Might I suggest that instead of an ordinance the City Council consider a no-smoking campaign that would encourage voluntary compliance? The police department has enough to do; let’s not add another ordinance that is all but unenforceable.
Stay safe, be well, and please don’t smoke.
FREDERICK B. PARSELLS