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OP-ED: Creating a healthy city
July 29, 2013, 05:00 AM By Herb Perez

Foster City has completed and approved its annual budget. It was a detailed and diligent process which was conducted to meet a predetermined set of objectives. The City Council set a goal to balance the budget while maintaining the quality of life our residents have come to expect and deserve. The process took more than six months with many hours of review by both staff and the council. In the end, we as a city were able to achieve our goals. We balanced the budget and were able to maintain all levels of service and staff levels that provide our residents with a safe and sound community.

This result was only possible because of the cooperation and dedication of our city staff, police and fire who provide the services that keep our operations running and safeguard our community and families. All departments have continued to sharpen their pencils to surgically cut excess expenditures from the budget. In many cases they have forgone additional compensation and raises. They have also assumed greater workloads and responsibilities. They do so for their appreciation for our residents and our community. I am sure I speak for many when I say “thank you” for their sacrifices and continued dedication. I hope we will be able to address future budgets with this in mind and build in financial parameters to better meet the value of their contributions.

This past week, the council reviewed past and new policy initiatives for the coming year. The policy calendar creates items offered to the public as action items during the year at various council meetings. It is important the public attend and offer input on these items. We serve and represent you. We have made tremendous progress on the current agenda.

While each policy matter is important, there are some which resonate more deeply with me. The health and safety of our children and families are of the utmost concern for me as a policy maker. I have been and remain committed to supporting legal protection for our families and the community in regards to these types of issues. In the coming months, the council will be conducting a review of several health and safety issues which I feel are critical to our continued enjoyment of the quality of life here in the city.

It has been well-established that no one individual may affect the health of another indiscriminately. In the case of secondhand smoke, many of our surrounding communities have taken aggressive steps to protect their residents from the perils of carcinogenic by-products. Recently, our city chose to take a less aggressive approach and passed a non-smoking resolution for public events only. The question that remains is whether this step has accomplished its intended goal through less obtrusive means and self-compliance.

Foster City is a unique community made up of residents with family-centric values. As a result, our residents usually comply with the parameters set forth in city-wide resolutions intended to enhance our quality of life. However, some issues are of such importance that a resolution cannot adequately attain our community goals.

The health and safety of our families should not be trumped by the personal desire of any individual who may choose to participate in any activity with proven detrimental health consequences for others. This is not to say that individuals should not be able to choose such activities, but rather where and when they are permitted can and may best be controlled by ordinance.

Most recently, in New York City, the mayor undertook a severe course of action in an attempt to curb the intake of sugary beverages. A state Supreme Court judge ruled the regulatory effort to be arbitrary and capricious and most likely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. While his intent was good, his approach was overreaching and most likely not effective even if implemented. While the consumption of these sugary beverages is not healthy, it is a personal choice that can be better managed through education and outreach. Moreover, this choice is that of the individual and does not cause detriment to a casual bystander unlike the proven effects of secondhand smoke

There is no doubt that the review of this issue will yield passionate debate from our community. There will be questions as to what degree smoking should be limited and in what areas or locations. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important issue and where/how it fits within a Sustainable Foster City.

Herb Perez is a member of the Foster City Council. He can be reached at 468-3143 or



Tags: community, council, residents, their, health, policy,

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