The youth on the Kiwanis Green Team on Wednesday held a party at Furman Park to celebrate the installation of the city’s first signs restricting smoking at public parks to small designated areas.
The signs were the result of a hard-fought and sometimes contentious public relations campaign by the Green Team last fall that had them filling up the City Council chambers and listening to 20-minute speeches by Councilman Mario Guerra against their effort.
The sheer number of children to attend council meetings was a major factor in the efforts success. Before voting in favor of the ban, Mayor Roger Brossmer said the issue was not a priority but that he had to respect the nearly 100 youth who attended the hearings.
The ban passed 4-1 in November, with Guerra voting against it.
Even with the issue settled, the Green Team and Guerra on Wednesday still had some fighting words left over from fall.
“A lot of people thought this issue wasn’t important, but we’re here to stay and people need to know that,” said Alex Gaytan. “This is a big issue.”
Guerra was on hand to tell a joke at the Concerts in the Park series.
“This law is so ridiculous,” he said. “It’s redundant.”
State law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of a playground.
Downey’s law ends up forcing people to smoke on sidewalks surrounding the parks, often bring the smoke closer to children than if there was no ban in place, Guerra said.
“It’s a completely unnecessary law,” he said.
The change was championed by Councilman Fernando Vasquez.
“Most importantly, it shows our youth that when they have passion about something and really believe that a change is needed, then can make a difference,” Vasquez said.
Councilman Luis Marquez was the first councilman to offer Vasquez his support.
Marquez, whose children play in youth sports in the city, said parents in youth leagues were sick of people lighting up within feet of young athletes.
The signs were paid for by anti-tobacco funds from the county. County officials at the event declined to comment for this story.
Furman was the first park to get the news signs. The rest will be installed at every city park within the next few weeks, according to a press release from the city.
The Green Team have attended area parks to pick up cigarette butts a few time since their campaign began last year. They did a butt pick-up this week and recorded the biggest increase in cigarette butts at Furman Park.