Smoking Ban Speech Reveals Unlikely Supporter

Continuing the fight for smoke-free parks in Santee. If the 17 other cities in San Diego County can have a smoking ban at their city parks, then why can't we?

Wednesday night marked the fourth speech in public communication trying to convince just one member of the city council to put this item on the agenda for discussion.  To this point they have all refused.

In this speech, however, I revealed that I had a very unlikely supporter of this effort and also notified everyone of the Union-Tribune article that was coming out Thursday morning.  If you missed the article here is the link:


As I have done after each meeting, I am posting a copy of the speech read to the City Council.  Here it is:

Sometimes you have to turn to the unlikeliest of sources for support.  After the last City Council Meeting I decided to reach out to a place nobody would expect to
support a smoking ban.

When I sent my request for support to them I was not sure what to expect.  I was
pleasantly surprised when I received an email back.  It was a short response—only 3 sentences.  But it was the second sentence that spoke volumes.  It read:

“We further believe that the conclusions of public health officials concerning environmental tobacco smoke are sufficient to warrant measures that regulate smoking in public places.”

The company that made that statement is Altria Group Incorporated—better known as Philip Morris USA, the largest tobacco company in the United States.

The public health officials that they refer to include the surgeon general, who is the nation’s leading speaker on matters of public health.

So while the leading tobacco company agrees with the surgeon general’s report that there is no risk-free level of second hand smoke, the five members of the Santee City Council apparently do not.  They are putting personal liberty and freedom ahead of the health and safety of the public and in particular our children by refusing to put the topic on their agenda for discussion and action. 

The fact that Santee is the only city to allow smoking in its city parks is now getting attention from the media. The Union-Tribune will be publishing an article in tomorrow’s edition. It is being written by Karen Pearlman and will appear in the East County section.  

The effort by public health officials, both nationwide and locally, to reduce and prevent smoking among young people is being undermined by the continued allowance of smoking at our city parks.

Nearly all tobacco use begins during youth and young adulthood. The fewer places our youth are exposed to smoking…the less likely they will ever begin smoking.

More than 600,000 middle school students in this country smoke cigarettes.  About 1.5 million students under age 18 will try their first cigarette this year.  The
younger children are when they try tobacco the more likely they are to become

This is unacceptable

I am continuing this fight for one simple reason: the health and well being of our children.

Sadly, children are powerless to protect themselves from all of this.   But we are not powerless to help protect them.

As parents, neighbors, and government officials---as a society---we want nothing but the best for our children. We want them to be safe and to grow up healthy.

Yet, we allow our children to breathe a substance that contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals.

We allow them to be exposed to a substance that makes healthy children sick and sick children even sicker.

We allow them to be exposed to the cancer causing habit, knowing that if they start and become addicted it—that it could eventually kill them.

We can do better and we should do better.   Especially in Santee.

After the speech, Councilman John Minto spoke up simply to once again ask me to clarify where it is I live. We've already clarified that I live in Lakeside, John.  Nothing news breaking there.  As has been previously told—my daughter goes to school in Santee. I am on the board for the Santee School District Foundation.I serve on three committees for the Santee School District—not to mention I generally grocery shop in Santee. My daughter plays soccer at the Sportsplex in Santee, and I generally dine and shop in Santee.  I've also said that I plan on moving to Santee when I can. 

I guess it might be your way to deflect the attention from you guys I don't know.  Doesn't make much sense to continually bring it up.  

Councilman Jack Dale then spoke up to advise the other members that he was interviewed for the article that I mentioned.  He seemed to be open to possibly considering a ban in the future.  The one thing he pointed out and also stated in the Union-Tribune story was that he was shocked to learn that Santee was the only city in San Diego County without a smoking ban.  Really?  I've only stated that fact in each of my speeches.

Finally Vice Mayor Rob McNelis chimed in and said that while he 1000% supports promoting a healthy lifestyle he also is 1000% against forcing someone to comply.

So it's still not on the agenda, but perhaps we started to make progress.  There are two more City Council meetings before the community forum scheduled to be held on April 18th at 7:00PM in the theater of West Hills High School.

Vice Mayor Rob McNelis has agreed to be there along with representatives from the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Santee Solutions, Santee Collaborative, and Health and Human Service Agency.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Motivated Santee Citizen March 28, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I just tell it the way I see it Art. Nothing more, nothing less. I am curios as to why the "obvious things wrong" are not being taken care of? Maybe Joe and I can get together on these issues? I really want to see Santee become the city that it has the potential to be and not a place that the rest of the county laughs at.
Art March 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Motivated, same goes for me. I moved here 3 years ago because of home prices, school systems, and the fact that it has the small town feel. We moved in right around Christmas, and got to see Starlight Circle and all that. However, with that being said, I also think that there are bigger things to worry about then smoking in the park. Cigarette butts on the ground is always going to be a problem, especially since the parks are accessible at night for whoever wants to go out there whether it be the homeless, teens, or careless smokers. As far as the obvious things, people either don't care about the laws, don't know about the laws, or are too ignorant to follow them. Not to mention that our Sheriffs Dept is understaffed, and can't give a citation to everyone. Most places have regulations against RV's, does Santee have one?
joan sullivan March 29, 2012 at 05:14 AM
MSC says Santee will be a laughing stock in the national news. Suggested news headline: "Santee, the staunch tree standing in a felled forest, is under attack by anti-smoking non-profit charities with chain saws."
Mary March 29, 2012 at 06:10 AM
Art - Please don’t lump me in with Motivated. I am and always have been a NON-smoker. I am not trying to create trouble for Mr Spencer. He was the one who stated his housing locale and the arrangements he has made for his daughter’s schooling. I asked why he thought it was fair for the residents of Santee to pick up the dime for his individual preferences, and yes I did question his tactics regarding playground repairs at the school his daughter attends after another blogger brought his actions to our attention on this blog. I inquired about issues he and other’s raised. I dropped the issue when others thought I was too hard on him and being to personal. Then Mr. Spencer brought it up again and specifically wanted me to respond to his allegations of me being 100% wrong, as if I should apologize for making statements that eventually were proven true. As a property tax payer, living in the city of Santee, I believe I have a right to question where my tax dollars are going and for what purpose, and to call out people who use everyone’s tax dollars for personal desires. Sorry you don’t think it is a big deal. Why Mr Spencer believes that his asking “folks” at school, a teacher and other “community members” is the appropriate fact finding technique is beyond me. The info they provided show they were lacking in understanding of actual costs to educate our children. I went to get the ACTUAL answers from the Santee School District Business Office.
Mary March 29, 2012 at 06:18 AM
Cont’d from above - Over NINE MILLION DOLLARS last year alone came from Santee Property Taxes to supplement funding received from the State of California for each child that attend our Santee schools. The difference between what the state gives our School District and what the actual cost to educate a student, is over $2,500 per year, per student. Somebody is paying that and obviously Mr Spencer is not since he doesn’t live here. I don’t know if he rents or owns his own home, but in either case the tax base he is contributing to is Lakeside, not Santee. In his blogs he has stated he always intended to live in Santee, but that intent appears to be about a decade old by his own story. How many more years does he think the Santee taxpayers should pick up the difference? All this obviously is off the topic of a smoking ban, but it does go to the credibility and intellectual qualifications of a person trying to make changes to Santee’s Municipal Codes.


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