Would bans on smoking, dogs help combat crime in downtown Eugene?
EUGENE, Ore. – Bans on dogs and smoking downtown now under consideration by the Eugene City Council have drawn opposition from some residents and business owners.
Jeff Keim, owner of the Thunderbird Market in downtown Eugene, said banning dogs and smoking wouldn’t solve a bigger downtown problem.
"It doesn't make any sense to us at all," he said. "The way we see it, it's going to further hurt business downtown. We have a crime problem downtown is what it is. There's a problem with transient crime. Violent crime."
Not all people who live and work downtown are against the idea.
"I'm for that, it really is more of a health issue as well as a safety issue downtown," said Nicole Desch, owner of Heritage Dry Goods. "I think it's a great way to reduce some of the pet waste that's on the sidewalks which is also a health issue as well as make sure other dogs and people are safe."
Back in November, the Eugene City Council began discussing how to make downtown a more welcoming place.
That discussion led to the proposed ordinances.
If approved, the dog and smoke bans would apply to core areas of downtown.
There will be some exceptions.
For example, people with service dogs, or pet owners who live in the banned areas.
The council argues a smoking ban would protect residents of second-hand smoke, a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. According to Eugene City Council surveys, 75 percent of Lane County residents believe it is important to be protected from secondhand smoke outdoors.
It's an issue Desch said affects her store on a daily basis.
“So our fresh air intake is on an alleyway, and when people congregate there and smoke we have problems with the second-hand smoke coming into the shop," she said. "And just given the density of downtown and the number of people downtown, it just makes sense for there to be clean air for everybody to enjoy downtown."
Council officials said the dog ban is modeled after a ban in place around the University of Oregon since 1996.
The Council weighed whether or not to repeal the ban in 2011. That discussion ended with some Councilors arguing for an expanded ban.
The smoking and dog bans returned as part of a discussion of problems downtown.
A consultant told the City Council this month that Eugene's issues are quite serious, she said, suggesting public safety downtown had “reached a crisis level and must be addressed.”
Watch a longer clip of the consultant's comments
Keim said the bans would drive smokers and dog owners out of downtown.
"Three blocks away from all these businesses downtown you can still walk your dog, you can still smoke a cigarette, so people will go there, not downtown,” said Keim.
Keim and others planned to march to the City Council meeting Monday night.
"The people marching are all the people who live and work downtown this is our downtown," he said. "We're here all the time the council isn't here. A lot of Eugene doesn't come downtown. We don't want to be homeless we don't want to be out of work.”
After Monday night’s public hearing, the Eugene City Council can request to have to ordinances modified.
They will officially vote for or against them on March 8.