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Taking stock of political posturing

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 18, 2007


Politics is a funny business. In Encinitas it comes with clowns and Christmas parades, codgers, and contrarians. It also comes with a colorful collection of community activists, attempting to humanize public policy and maximize quality of life. Everyone plays their role, and the show continues.

One of these community activists is an anti-smoking crusader named Candice Porter. Ms. Porter has been working for more than a decade to keep cigarettes out of kids hands and smoking banned from public places. Many consider Candice the unofficial anti-smoking czar of Encinitas. She is very persuasive.

I mention Candice Porter to highlight the difference between her and Encinitas city councilman Jerome Stocks, a seven year obstacle to Ms. Porter's efforts. Stocks is on record as opposing a beach smoking ban for Encinitas.

In a display of political posturing, as transparent as it was contrived, Mr. Stocks kicked off his 2008 campaign with a political action group called Smokeout Encinitas, to gather signatures for an advisory vote asking residents if they favored a smoking ban on city beaches.

What exactly is an advisory vote? Does advisory mean non binding? I mean really, what's the point of an advisory vote, other than to waste time and money? Why doesn't he just ask Mayor Jim Bond to place a proposed smoking ban on the council's agenda? He only needs 3 votes. If he is sincere, he has the votes. Councilwomen Houlihan and Barth would gladly support his motion to bring a beach smoking ban to a public vote.

A public vote, advisory or otherwise is not needed in this case. A smoking ban falls into the category of ordinance. Ordinances are rarely brought to a public vote. The Encinitas City Council banned alcohol from city beaches without a public vote, so why not tobacco products?

It's not like it hasn't been done before. Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Oceanside have no-smoking ordinances and Carlsbad is working on one. Smoking has been banned in bars and restaurants, all public buildings, and most commercial ones because it a serious health hazard. Currently, California prohibits by law the of smoking tobacco products, of any kind, within 25 feet of a tot lot. State legislators are considering expanding the band to parks and beaches as well.

It's clear Mr. Stocks is still opposed to a smoking ban on public beaches. If Stocks supported a smoke free ordinance for Encinitas beaches, there would be one now. The public request has been there since he took office in 2000. By deploying the "let the people decide" rhetoric in 2007 he is trying to cast himself as a populist in 2008 while deflecting the authority invested to him by voters in 2004 to make such decisions.

It is also clear, Councilman Stocks is out of touch with the majority of Californians, and way behind the leadership curve in San Diego County. With plenty of opportunity to act he continuously fails to do so. The issue has been decided. And an advisory vote on a future ballot is just delaying the inevitable.

What's up with that?

And what is up with the name Smokeout Encinitas? The verb phase 'Smoke out' has three meanings; to drive from a refuge by means of smoke, to force into public view or knowledge, or to smoke copious amounts of marijuana. As in "Dude, let's smoke out." Voters should ask Mr. Stocks who, or what, he is planning to smoke out, as well as where and when.

I predict the real outcome of Jerome Stocks' Smokeout Encinitas scheme, will be that Councilman Stocks will be driven from office by his own grandstanding hypocrisy, and blatant political posturing that cigarettes will be banned from Encinitas beaches before the next election, and somehow Mr. Stocks will try to take credit for the tide he is trying to hold back.

Cue the clown music.

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