The students of Dover Youth to Youth have often found that they can solve problems by pursuing a local legislative solution – by proposing a city ordinance which has the effect law, but only in the City of Dover.
The process of passing an ordinance mirrors the process for passing a state law, but it is simpler and generally much quicker. An ordinance must be sponsored (submitted) by one of the 9 members of the Dover City Council. The proposal goes through a series of readings where the issue is first introduced, followed at a later date by a scheduled public hearing where any interested person can address the Council for or against the proposed ordinance. The final step is the actual vote by the 9 members of the Council. A majority vote is required for passage.
A recent example of the use of a city ordinance to approach a problem was the Youth to Youth’s proposal to pass an ordinance which would restrict smoking in a portion of Henry Law Park surrounding the Dover Rotary Band Shell and the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, and including the playground in an adjacent portion of the park.
Y2Y had discovered that there has been a high amount of smoking going on at the upper section of Henry Law Park near the Dover Rotary Band Shell. Students noticed this problem during a clean up day in 2012 to help pick up cigarette butts from the park. Students gathered a total of 926 cigarettes in just a half hour in the upper part of Henry Law Park. Gary Bannon, the head of the Dover Recreation Department also informed us that there was a noticeable amount of smoking that occurred during the Cocheco Art Festival shows.
There has also been a considerable amount of smoking going on near the premises of the playground in the rear of the band shell, which concerned Y2Y because there is a large amount of children that use that area.
Y2Y felt that this was important because not only is smoking and leaving cigarette butts on the ground littering, but Henry Law Park is also a very popular place for people to visit, for varieties of reasons, such as concerts and shows that occur there during the summer. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is also located adjacent to Henry Law Park, and the presence of smoking can make it very uninviting for kids as well as parents.
We contacted several organizations who would have an interest in the park to see how they felt about this issue. The executive director of the New Hampshire Children’s Museum enthusiastically supported the idea, as did the Dover Chamber of Commerce’s executive director. The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee also voted to support the ordinance. Lastly Y2Y contacted the Dover Rotary Club who sponsored the Dover Rotary Band Shell and has made a big investment in the park in general – including the Rotary Gardens. They were also in favor of an ordinance to restrict smoking in this part of the park.
Students wrote up the proposed ordinance and Mayor Dean Trefethen sponsored it. At the public hearing three members of Youth to Youth testified about the importance and reasoning behind the proposal – including a map of the restricted area, a display of the cigarette butts picked up, and a PowerPoint presentation illustrating the location to be restricted. The Dover City Council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance in spring 2013.
The ordinance only restricted the area where there is high usage by kids and families, but left most of the park unrestricted. Dover Youth to Youth offered to fundraise to help pay for signs that would be needed to go up around the area of the park and playground that was restricted from smoking. Those signs went up in July 2013.