Drinking ban on public property in the city extended to picnic areas
If you're the guy who wants to walk down to your neighborhood park afterwork, kick back and drink a beer, Councilman Frank Ferrando has a message for you: Use your own backyard.
Ferrando was among five Batavia council members on Monday to vote in favor of a change in the local code banning adult beverage consumption, without a permit, in picnic areas in public parks.
Drinking was already banned on all publicly owned property in the city, with the exception of picnic areas.
"We keep having the example of the guy who wants to have a beer in the park," Ferrando said. "He can have the beer in his back yard if he wants to have a beer. We don't want to have somebody seriously injured because he drove to the park, got drunk and then got in his car. The guy doesn't need to have a beer in that park."
John Roach and Dan Jones (inset) both used the public comments section of the council's agenda to speak against the proposed ban.
"It has nothing to do with public safety and it has nothing to do with public health," Roach said. "There are plenty of laws in place to deal with disorderly conduct or throwing trash around, but this is unnecessary. It's just something to keep people you don't particularly like out of the parks."
Jones, a candidate for city council, called the change in the law an affront to personal liberty.
Roach said he found it ironic that it was the Republicans (supposedly the party of individual freedom) on the council pushing for the change in the law.
Ferrando said the decision had nothing to do with politics.
"Whether it's Republican or Democrat, I don't know what that means," Ferrando said. "I think we all vote our conscious and what's best for the community. I don't think any politics is involved."
Rosemary Christian was among the three Democrats -- along with Kathy Briggs and Sam Barone -- who voted against the change.
"It's a violation of my rights," Christian said. "I pay for the right to enjoy these parks. If I want to smoke, if I want to have a beer, without bothering anybody else, without hurting anybody, without destroying property, then it's a matter of rights."
Even before the change, it's not like the guy with the beer could go toss a line into the Tonawanda Creek and pop open a Miller High Life, nor could he take his girlfriend down to Ferrell Park and spread out a picnic blanket and uncork a bottle of pinot noir. Alcohol consumption outside of the picnic areas -- defined, it seems, as the pavilions, was already illegal.
Now the guy with the beer needs to apply in advance for a permit, which will cost him $25.
Government, from local right up to the federal level was meant to govern, but only with bounds that respect people's rights, passing a law to remove people from the park because they are drinking while not bothering anyone, or, acting disorderly, is overstepping it's bounds. I don't think it's right and had I been on Council I would have voted no.
Many people also grew up around people consuming alcohol and have not become alcoholics. Should we ban tobacco so people will not become addicted? Cars so the environment doesn't become polluted? Of course not, we have standards for each of those things and we have them with alcohol consumption, it's disorderly conduct, it's a fair standard and one we should keep instead of outright banning alcohol consumption for those who may not have a backyard or can't afford to go to the bar.