DUNEDIN — Having the authority now to ban the smoking of cigarettes but not unfiltered cigars at municipal beaches and parks was snicker-worthy July 26 for city commissioners.
At a discussion on actions taken during the 2022 Florida legislative section, commissioners got a few chuckles out of a new state law while raising questions about it.
"That's so ridiculous, but I'm just saying," Commissioner Moe Freaney said, referring to the exception for unfiltered cigars.
Nicole Delfino, assistant to the city manager, said the impetus behind the bill was concern about litter rather than smoke although both are environmental concerns.
City Attorney Nikki Day said there were "lot of people who powerfully lobbied to be able to celebrate with cigars in parks."
That brought a sarcastic comment from Commissioner Jeff Gow.
"Nothing better on a hot July day," Gow said.
"That's making me a little queasy," Commissioner Deborah Kynes said.
City officials are in discussions on the issue of smoking in parks with county staff, Dunedin Parks and Recreation Administration Superintendent Lanie Sheets said, and are looking into what municipalities are doing as well.
"When that news came up that it was finally or hopefully passing, the causeway advisory committee asked staff to pursue it for the causeway. We have kind of dusted off that old language and reviewed it to see if it would be applicable today," Sheets said.
In terms of litter, smoking is a big issue, Freaney said, noting that the topic is worthy of discussion.
Dunedin City Manager Jennifer Bramley said the action taken by the Legislature was a good start on the smoking issue.
"We would like to do some additional analysis and see what the county is doing and go through our committees as well. We have lots of active committees. And then make a recommendation to the City Commission. So, I think there's a lot of work to be done on this item," Bramley said.
County officials have the authority to decide whether to regulate smoking in parks they own in the city limits.
Also discussed was legislation, which failed, to restore local authority to regulate short-term rentals. The bill would have eliminated preemption provisions in the current law.
Kynes said repealing the law has been a top priority for the Florida League of Cities Municipal Administration Legislative Policy Committee.
"We didn't go anywhere with vacation rentals," she said. "That has been their number one issue for years," Kynes said.
Freaney said legislators' actions ties the city officials' hands because there could be scenarios in which they actually allow additional vacation rental areas.
"I just find it very frustrating because in this case I think it actually works against some of their own goals," Freaney said.
Of the 3,685 bills filed in the 2022 legislative session, 285 were adopted. Eleven were vetoed by the governor.
High among the city's appropriation requests was the Dunedin Causeway Replacement Bridge, $80 million, which remains unfunded by the state.
In an effort to protect the quality of life for Dunedin residents, city records say, the city established legislative priorities in February of 2019, producing documentation of their most pressing state and federal legislative priorities. Subsequently, priorities were updated in 2020 and 2021.
In other news
City commissioners proclaimed Sunday, Aug. 7, as Purple Heart Day.
They ask "everyone to pause and remember those extraordinary men and women, and their families, who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom, and those who were willing to make that ultimate sacrifice and to pray for the safety of all those defending our nation today."
The occasion marks the 15th anniversary of the city of Dunedin being congressionally recognized as a Purple Heart City.
Mayor Julie Bujalski said she is "extremely proud of a community that has such strong ... veterans support as we do. We have an extremely active American Legion and VFW."
This year's Purple Heart Day ceremony will be held Sunday, Aug. 7, 6 p.m., at Purple Heart Park, 300 Main St.