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City Council members grapple over subject of BBQ for Equality miscommunication

By Mike Pettinella

Batavia City Council members are united in touting Sunday’s March for Justice as a huge success, but declined to shed much light upon the miscommunication over a proposed City-supported BBQ for Equality that failed to materialize.

However, The Batavian has learned that the snafu over the barbecue at Williams Park – which was cancelled and set the stage for the March for Justice outside of the City Centre – may have triggered some far-reaching repercussions.

When contacted today about his reaction to the protest and comments on the ill-fated BBQ for Equality, Council Member Robert Bialkowski said that a significant discussion took place during a 90-minute executive session following Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Asked if there was more to the post-meeting debate, he said, “As usual, in politics there’s always something going on, but I can’t comment,” he said. “You’ll know soon enough. When things are going smooth, sometimes people have to rock the boat. And when they fall in the river, then they cry.”


Council President Eugene Jankowski, when advised of Bialkowski’s statement, said “that since this is a personnel matter, I can’t comment at this time.”

Calls to City Manager Martin Moore's office and cell phone were not returned at the time of this story's posting.

Problems arose on June 1 after published reports indicated that the City of Batavia (in conjunction with City Church) would be providing food at no charge at the Williams Park barbecue, and that Police Chief Shawn Heubusch would be the guest speaker.

Jankowski acknowledged there was a disconnect between organizer Macy Paradise and the city manager’s office.

“Speaking for myself as an individual council member, when I heard about the BBQ I contacted the city manager,” he said. “I was told there was miscommunication between the organizers and the manager’s office – and I acted upon that information.”

At that point, Jankowski said he posted on Facebook the process for groups to have an event in the City – that it had to go through City Council first with an event application and insurance in place.

“That had not been done at the point,” he said, “because the next Council meeting wasn’t until the day after the scheduled barbecue.”


Other council members said they weren’t clear about the “negotiations” between the city manager and organizers, with Bialkowski mentioning that he has heard several stories but none of the facts.

“There was a lot of confusion and a lot of hearsay,” he said. “It’s really easy to point fingers that somebody did something but … unless you were there.”

Rose Mary Christian emphasized that the request did not come before City Council and that no one had the authority to say that the City would purchase food. She contends that the event organizer misunderstood Moore.

“We’re in a financial bind with this COVID-19, and have lost VLT money and sales tax revenue, and many people are still unemployed,” she said.

Regardless, the situation put the City in a tenuous position, with many people commenting on social media that City officials reneged on a promise.


Concerning the March for Justice, Council members agreed that it was a worthwhile and momentous occasion.

“I am very pleased that it was peaceful and glad that they did because they need to get their point across,” Paul Viele said. “Everyone needs to be treated equal and fairly.”

Viele and the other council members mentioned health reasons for not being able to attend, citing COVID-19 concerns, but all said they wish to engage in further conversations.

Patti Pacino called the march “fabulous.”

“They were peaceful and they cared and they meant what they said,” she said. “I’m all for it and I’m very proud that it went off so well in our city. I know many people who were there, and they said the feeling was good.”

She added that people’s feelings cannot be taken lightly.


“I think it brought the point home to a lot of people that this is serious; this is a real thing. It’s not just people griping,” she said.

Christian said the “Black Lives Matter march was really, really good in the City of Batavia” but didn’t think many people are being treated unjustly here.

“If you break the law, you have to pay for that – one way or another,” she said. “As for the protest, it was very well organized and very well participated by people.”

Bialkowski said he was pleased that the protest was peaceful.

“I am glad the whole thing went off without any hitches – only one arrest,” he said.

As for the other Council members, Al McGinnis said he did not want to comment, Jeremy Karas could not be reached and John Canale and Kathleen Briggs did not return phone messages. 

Jankowski reported his positive thoughts at Monday’s Council meeting, and pledged to do whatever he could to foster a better relationship between Council and Batavia’s people of color.

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