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Concerned citizens share thoughts on dog and smoking ban at public forum

Eugene City Councilors heard public comment on the proposed dog and smoking ban in downtown Eugene Monday night. Harris Hall was filled with hundreds of concerned citizens. (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. – There weren’t enough seats for the large crowd at the Eugene City Council meeting Monday night where hundreds gathered for a public forum.

At the forum, the community discussed two controversial proposed ordinances aimed at making the downtown area safer.

The new rules could ban smoking and dogs from downtown.

Monday, business owners and community members shared their opinions on both sides of the debate.

“I support implementing some sort of action, whether it’s an ordinance like this that helps to cultivate streets that we can walk down,” said Toby Ritchie who supports the ordinance.

Supporters of the smoking ban say it would protect people from second-hand smoke.

Officials say the dog ban is modeled after a University of Oregon rule that has been successful since the 1990s. They say it will regulate the large number of dogs that are concentrated in busy sections of downtown.

Though some say it doesn’t address the root of the problem – downtown crime.

“These policies are especially troublesome because they were created to target a specific group of people. And yes, those people can use streets a few blocks away, but that sounds a lot like separate but equal to me,” said Maria Bybee who opposes the ordinance.

The ordinance has some exceptions. People with service dogs or pet owners who live in the banned area are allowed to have animals in the area.

After Monday’s public hearing, the Eugene City Council can request to have ordinances modified. They will officially vote on the ordinances on March 8.

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