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Kevin Keenan's collection of cigarette butts from city parks

As you might imagine, not one City Council member asked for a closer look at Kevin Keenan's butt collection.

The GCASA Prevention Educator brought his plastic jugs and bags to the council business meeting last night. They contained thousands of cigarette butts collected by volunteer children at four area parks: Lambert, Lyons, Falleti and Austin. Keenan used them as evidence of the smoking that goes on in the parks.

"The kids picked these up within an hour," Keenan stressed. "If we were there longer, we'd have picked up a lot more than that."

Keenan's example was disgusting at best, but it drove his point home: smoking must be discouraged at area parks where kids play. And several members of council agreed 100%.

"It isn't just about secondhand smoke, or the littering - it's the example we set for children when they see people smoking," said Council President Marianne Clattenburg. "I don't think there's one person on this council who wants to see children start smoking."

And while Councilwoman Rosemary Christian may agree with that last bit, she's wholly against the tobacco-free policy. Since council's last conference meeting, Christian has asked for a designated area for the smokers who may want to patronize local parks. Monday night, she made a motion to amend the tobacco-free resolution and allow a designated area. But that motion would ultimately be defeated, and later, the tobacco-free designation passed as well.

Christian and Clattenburg square off at Monday night's meetingIt wasn't the only time Christian would be quieted. On three separate occasions, Christian got into it with Clattenburg, twice arguing over the tobacco-free proposal (each time she was gaveled out by Clattenburg). Another time, they clashed as Christian argued her point over Monday's other proposal: to ban all drinking in public parks.

"You mean to tell me you can't go with your friend or your husband, and have a little picnic...and then you have a beer and you're going to be arrested?" she asked. Christian was referencing the proposed amendment to city law, which would prohibit public drinking in the only remaining place you can do it: under park pavilions.

"Do you really think that's going to happen?" Clattenburg asked. "I sure hope not, but what's the point of even passing it?" Christian fired back.

"We have an issue...people loitering and drinking in our parks. That's what we're trying to fix here," said Clattenburg. "It's got nothing to do with you and your honey having a beer on a picnic," she added.

But several others took issue with the law's possible inconsistency or interpretation.

"It's impossible for us to say, 'Well you can sit and have a nice beer, but not those low-lifes over there,'" said Patti Pacino.

"We can't, as a governing body, say 'you can drink two beers, but you can't drink four,'" said Councilman Bob Bialkowski. Both would end up voting in favor of the amendment, but it wouldn't matter. As an attempted "fast-track" bill, council needed a unanimous vote in favor in order to pass the law. Needless to say, Rosemary Christian voted 'No,' along with Kathy Briggs and Sam Barone.

The drinking ban now moves to a regular vote at Council's next business meeting in August. If the votes stay the same, the amended law will pass.

UPPATE (3:25pm):

Click to listen to Council's response to public comments:

Click to listen to Council's discussion of the drinking ban in park pavilions:
PART 1    PART 2

Click to listen to Council's discussion of the park tobacco-free policy:
PART 1    PART 2

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