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January 10, 2013

Laws should make some sense

“911, what’s your emergency?”

Caller : “There’s somebody smoking a cigarette in the park!”

911: “We’ll contact police and get a squad car over there right away.”

This sounds absurd, but it’s actually law in Pryor Creek. A person cannot use tobacco in any form in the city parks or on public library grounds. And as the sign reads, a violator could face a fine up to $149.

Kevin Dobson is the city judge for Pryor. I asked him if anyone had ever been in his court charged with violation of this ordinance. He was unfamiliar with the ordinance and said this must be “ancient.” It’s actually a 2011 ordinance, No. 2011-6 Sec. 4-7-1 which prohibits tobacco use of ANY KIND. That includes chew or snus in addition to cigarettes. Imagine a Pryor Police Officer saying to someone in the park, “Let’s see what you’ve got under your lip sir?”

There have been a number of times that someone could have been ticketed for the offense of smoking in Whitaker park. During a traders’ day event in April and at the Fourth of July concert, I saw someone smoking each time. No one in the park seemed interested in reporting the offese, because normal people know it’s silly to punish people for smoking a legal product on public property in the open air.  Oh, and I might mention at that traders’ day event in April, a vendor was selling — rifles.  So you can sell a gun in the park, but don’t light a cigarette. For the record, I’m not opposed to selling rifles in the park.

But this silliness does not stop in Pryor Creek; last February, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she was issuing an executive order no less, banning tobacco use on all state properties. This executive order has no legal bearing. In other words, a citizen cannot face legal penalties if the the governor’s edict is violated; unlike in Pryor Creek where a person could get fined up to $149 according to the park signs. It should be noted that in Ordinance No. 2011-6, no mention is made of fines, but the signs say there are fines for smoking.

If a smoker renting a cabin at Robber’s Cave State Park near Wilburton (which I have done) steps outside to smoke a cigarette, Gov. Fallin wants the person to get in the car, drive to the entrance of the park and light up. Fallin is superseding her authority as governor and taking on the role of a mother, just as Mayor Jimmy Tramel and the Pryor council want to be a daddy.

For laws to be respected they must make some sense. This ordinance and the governor’s executive order make no sense. They are just being “busy bodies.”

It would be a real sign of progress for Pryor if this silly ordinance got repealed.

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