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Category: Your Government

Board backs parks smoking ban 7-2

(Editor’s note: Due to a reporter’s error, the print edition of the paper erroneously stated the final vote as 7-1. The actual vote was 7-2, this version of the story has been updated.)

Of the Keizertimes

After a public hearing and lengthy debate, the Keizer Parks Advisory Board is moving forward with a recommendation to ban smoking in Keizer parks.

Board members voted 7-2 to recommend the action to the Keizer City Council. Matt Lawyer and David Louden were the voices dissent on the issue at a meeting of the board Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The recommendation will go to the council and suggest revisiting the current Keizer parks ordinance and replacing existing language that pertains to smoking in areas of high fire risk with an outright ban.

The suggestion of amending the existing ordinance, rather than creating something whole cloth, came from the board’s newest member, Zaira Flores Marin, who attended her first meeting prepared to cite chapter-and-verse.

Flores Marin said that a smoking ban represented a first step in “more of a cultural change in the city.”

Smoking is already banned in Salem and Marion County parks as well as Oregon’s state parks.

The handful of residents who offered testimony on the issue favored the ban, but it was testimony from Kerryann Bouska, a program coordinator with the Marion County Public Health Department who oversees anti-smoking education programs, that appeared to sway most of the remaining holdouts. Bouska, who is also a Keizer resident, was careful to walk the line of educating as an employee of Marion County and speaking in her role as a Keizer resident.

“When we as Keizer citizens say we care about health, we can send a stronger message”
— Kerryann Bouska, Keizer resident

Bouska said that smoke free rules and policies are typically self-enforcing and that previous attempts at mitigating smoking in Keizer parks, like designating smoking areas in each park, are hampered from the outset.

“Statistically, we find that self-regulation is enough to get by along with signage that is clear, consistent and visible,” she said.

One of the most steadfast arguments against a ban from several on the parks board has been the city’s inability to afford enforcing another ordinance, but board member Jim Taylor wanted to move forward and let the Keizer City Council and the Keizer Police Department (KPD) administration hash out the specifics.

Taylor said he’d had a conversation with KPD Chief John Teague about enforcing a cigarette ban and Teague didn’t want officers to become the smoking ban enforcers.

Bouska also echoed Flores Marin’s sentiments regarding a cultural shift.

“There are great opportunities to send the message that the parks and recreation are about health,” Bouska said. She then switched chairs and spoke on the issue as a resident of the city, continuing, “When we as Keizer citizens say we care about health, we can send a stronger message.”

By the end of the night, two of the board’s longest holdouts against an outright ban, Cat Gaynor and Dylan Juran, had moved to the other side of the issue.

Juran ended up being the one who initiated ban recommendation.

“I was maybe the most against this change, and I’ve slowly been slipping to the other side,” Juran said.

Gaynor said she once sided with those against the ban because of the difficulty in “legislating behavior,” but that her position on the issue shifted as a result of testimony.

“I was very against the idea of more regulation but, after hearing the testimony, I’m for a ban. If we start now, maybe in 20 years nobody will be smoking in parks any more,” she said.

Lawyer remained firmly opposed to the ban, but said he would be among the first to ask violators to snuff out cigarettes.

“If this is a real, functional solution needs to be a conversation rather than throwing up perfunctory signs,” Lawyer said.

Preparing for the hand-off: Cathy Clark’s vision for a third mayoral term

Of the Keizertimes

Mayor Cathy Clark announced she will be seeking a third term as Keizer’s mayor last week, but the crux of her vision for the city is less about what she will do during a third term and more about paving the way for those who follow her.

“I’m very purposeful and I want to reach Gen Xers and the Millenials. I know they are very busy with families and have a lot demands on their time, but we have got to make sure that we are taking the long view,” Clark said. “ If we are going to have a vibrant legacy that continues, the next generation has to be ready for it and the ones working right now have to be okay with them changing it.”

Clark served eight years as a member of the Keizer City Council before being elected as mayor in 2014. Prior to those duties she served on several of the city committees. In her time as public servant, Keizer has undergone widespread changes ranging from nascent stages of what is now Keizer Station to leading the charge to implement fees that created stable funding for parks and police services in 2017.

“We had established great parks and a responsive police department and a fantastic planning department, but a lot of those good things were beginning to show some wear and doing nothing was not an option,” Clark said.

Now she feels that other departments within the city need that same look, not the least of which is the future of Keizer’s Civic Center.

“If we don’t properly staff it and maintain it, we won’t have it,” she said. “We will have to look at all the revenue streams and come to a decision regarding the resources available and how the oversight (of the facility) looks in the future.”

In a city where the most frequent response to any problem is “volunteer,” Clark also wants to take a harder look at the nature of volunteering in the city. While she still believes volunteering is a “deeply embedded” trait in city residents, it is changing. Several of the city’s largest projects in recent years from erecting The Big Toy in Keizer Rapids Park to 2017’s Eclipse Festival fell short of the hopes for volunteer involvement. That led to human resources being stretched paper thin over days and sometimes weeks.

“We have to be honest about what volunteers can and can’t do. Volunteerism isn’t suited to long-term sustained operations. Volunteerism works well for specific duties with defined timelines and positive outcomes,” she said.

Like many in the community, Clark has been regaled with tales of how the community banded together to build Keizer Little League Park in the 1980s, but times are changed and continue to morph.

Clark’s family is a prime example. None of her three adult children participated in Little League offerings but all three are athletes who chose different outlets.

“Even back then when the choices were fewer, they chose other things,” she said. “People are now volunteering in more varied spaces like the food bank or sitting with an elder.”

The key, she added, is respecting those choices even when they doesn’t line up with the goals of the city.

“The real key for us to maintain the small town feeling is to stay connected and get involved in something outside your norm,” Clark said.

Where Keizer once defined itself as “not Salem,” Clark said the city is now at a different stage in its development.

“We have established ourselves as a community with its own distinct personality and own distinct destiny and we are in the process of discovering that. That’s where I believe my experience will be important,” she said.

On the regional level, she said her experience will be key as Keizer discusses the potential expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary it shares with Salem. She advocates for expansion of both residential and employment areas if it ever comes to fruition.

On the local level, she is eager to dig into new visions for River Road North and Wheatland Road North, the latter is on a list of projects set to be tackled in the coming years.

“For so many people, the answer on Wheatland is reducing the speed, but design works better than signs.  I’m excited to be a part of for long-term, safe and sustainable solutions on Wheatland,” Clark said. “The key elements of River Road Renaissance got worked into the (development) code, but it’s always good to look at a long-term plan mid-stream. What does the next generation value and how do we build to that vision?”

She would also like to engage the community in a broad conversation about completing the network of sidewalks throughout the city. Currently, the city can establish local improvement districts for neighborhoods to band together and pay for improvements, but she said the city can prepare to tackle all of the gaps if that’s what the residents decide to do.

“The most underserved area are the oldest neighborhoods. It’s an equity issue, a livability issue and I think we need to talk about it,” Clark said.

While any change comes with a cost, Clark said setting the goals will allow the city to work toward it.

Among the projects she was glad to have had a hand in are the fees for police and parks, implementation of the roundabout, the Eclipse Festival, and shepherding in recent changes at the Keizer Heritage Center with the addition of Keizer Homegrown Theater.

Despite having served for a number of years already, Clark isn’t putting an expiration date of her time in Keizer’s elected offices.

“It’s not the time it’s the quality, that has to be the deciding factor. That’s the way my family has treated it each time we’ve made this decision,” she said.

When the time arrives that the decision goes another way, she’s hoping that she’ll have done all she can to facilitate a clean transition.

“I am looking for future mayors and doing what I can to encourage them. I would love to do for them what Lore (Christopher) did for me to put them in a position to learn and develop the relationships that are essential. I want to be prepared for the  good hand-off and keep it going,” she said.

City Council

Mayor – Term Expires Jan. 2017
Cathy Clark
email:[email protected]

City Councilor, Position #1 – Term Expires Jan. 2017
Dennis Koho
email: [email protected]

City Councilor, Position #2 – Term Expires Jan. 2017
Kim Freeman
email: [email protected]

City Councilor, Position #3 – Term Expires Jan. 2017
Marlene Parsons
email: [email protected]

City Councilor, Position #4 – Term Expires Jan. 2019
Roland Herrera
email: [email protected]

City Councilor, Position #5 – Term Expires Jan. 2019
Amy Ryan
ph: 503-999-6972
email: [email protected]

City Councilor, Position #6 – Term Expires Jan. 2019
Brandon Smith
email: [email protected]