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Most of the Batavia City Council says to smokers: “Get your butts out of our parks.”

Rosemary Christian, however, says: “Keep your butts in one place.”

Council tonight took up the issue of smoking and drinking in public parks, and most agreed those behaviors should be banned (Councilpersons Bill Cox and Frank Ferrando were absent this evening). But Christian, an admittedly addicted smoker, disagreed with the smoking portion of the proposal. In an animated rant, she said prohibiting smoking would infringe upon her rights.

"We said the Pledge of Allegiance (before the meeting)...and it really upsets me that we state 'Liberty and Justice for all,'" she said. "Give me a break!"

If the proposed statute were passed, city parks would be declared "Smoke Free" areas, and labeled as such with signage. There would apparently be no legal deterrence to abstain from smoking in parks, though. Violators could only be asked to refrain from smoking there, in the hopes that they would comply. But, according to council's discussion tonight, there would be no legal ramification if that person refused to move.

Christian says if she and other smokers fund the parks as taxpayers, they should be able to smoke undeterred in the parks, too. But she stands by her prior advocacy that the smokers should be kept away from the kids.

"I think there should be a designated area for smoking," she says."Let's take Austin Park: they've got the pavilion, they've got the water park, there's kids shouldn't be smoking in those areas. Go to the other end of the field, and have a cigarette."

But Councilman-at-large Tim Buckley says Council should not decide matters based on personal preference.

"If we say we want designated areas for this, and then something for that...we're going to be arguing into Christmastime," he said.

On the subject of drinking in park pavilions, City Manager Jason Molino proposed changing the wording of existing city code. The code now "excepts" park pavilions as areas where drinking is not illegal; the wording would henceforth "include" pavilions in the list of public areas where drinking is illegal.

Only Councilman Sam Barone appeared to oppose that move, saying he feared the legislation was "discriminatory," since reserved parties at the pavilions would still be allowed to serve alcohol. Barone indicated that there must be current laws on the books against public drinking that could instead be enforced.

The matters of prohibiting drinking and smoking in public parks are set to be fast-tracked, separately, at Council’s next business meeting in July. That means the public hearing and the council vote on each issue will be held on the same night – but in order to pass, the votes must be unanimous.

Rosemary Christian tells WBTA: she’ll vote “No” to a smoking ban in city parks, which would guarantee that the ban could not be passed until at least August.

A cigarette butt sits near a playground at Austin Park

PHOTO: A cigarette butt lays near the snack booth at Austin Park. In a casual walking count, this reporter counted over thirty cigarette butts near the snack area, spray park, seating areas, and walking paths in Austin Park on Monday evening

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