Why I voted no on smoke ban

Biggs councilwoman explains position on winter wood-burning

Ms. Thompson is a member of the Biggs City Council and sits on the Board of Governors of the Butte County Air Quality Management District.

As a member of the governing board of the Butte County Air Quality Management District, I strongly object to the Chico News & Review’s criticism of my vote against the proposed wood-burning ban for the Chico area [“This is air quality?” Editorial, Oct. 1]. This was basically a ban on the use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves for Chico residents during the winter months. I voted against this ban because it’s undemocratic and unnecessary.

As a council member of the city of Biggs, I could not in good conscience vote to limit the freedom of those who live in Chico. They have no recourse against a council member not of their city, and this is undemocratic.

If the Chico City Council wishes to ban the use of fireplaces, it has the power to do so, and several members of that council have stated a desire to do so. If the citizens of Chico do not like this infringement on their freedom, they still have the ability to express their discontent in the next election.

Government intrusion into American homes has gone too far, and the people will not stand for it anymore. There are those who tried to portray this as an issue of public safety, but let’s use some common sense. [Butte County Public Health Medical Director] Dr. [Mark] Lundberg’s speculation that 393 deaths due to coronary artery disease are somehow caused by wood stoves is not empirical evidence. Much of the other arguments against burning were similarly based on opinions void of real fact.

There is also much more that can be done to educate the public about how to burn cleaner without completely banning them from burning to heat their homes. A majority of Chico residents have likely not even heard of this problem, and I would advise the Air Quality Management District staff to take a more proactive role on public education.

That includes finding volunteers to go door to door, and making the county Web site more user-friendly, in order to educate the public about cleaner-burning fuels. There were a few protesters from the environmental crowd at the last meeting that seemed willing to put a little volunteerism where their statements were.

Having a fireplace in the home is an American tradition and used to be a real-estate selling point. I will not see this freedom so easily trampled and taken away by those whose first duty is to the people and not the overzealous abuse of government power.