As a frequent visitor to Freestone Park, I appreciate the decision of Gilbert’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (under the direction of the Town Council) to install signs urging smokers, “In consideration of others, please restrict tobacco usage to a reasonable distance from those around you. Thank you.”
I’m afraid I have to disagree with Raymond Moers’ commentary (April 23, 2008) when he refers to such encouragement as a waste of taxpayer funds. I also dispute previous arguments that the effort to restrict smoking around others should be viewed as a privacy issue. I simply do not agree that providing a healthier atmosphere, especially in a public park, violates anyone’s personal freedoms. Not when tobacco users continue to enjoy the license to light up but are merely being asked to exhale the toxic fumes in a less populated surrounding.
If the attempt to curb inconsiderate action in a town park is considered an infringement of individual rights, how can we set limits on anyone’s conduct in a public setting? As members of an orderly society, citizens adhere to all sorts of communal standards; we consider it appropriate group behavior. Applying Moers’ incongruous argument, Gilbert residents should be allowed to run naked through our public parks, so as not to deprive them of their right to privacy.
Moers complained that the signs are a misuse of tax dollars because they offer “no fiscal or economic benefit whatsoever.” So what? That’s true of all signage posted throughout the park. Of what pecuniary benefit are the notices marking railroad crossings, handicapped parking spaces, or those denoting the rules governing general park usage?
Indeed, the Town Council is expected to be fiscally responsible with Gilbert’s tax dollars, but the appropriation of town resources is not limited to potential monetary gain. Local parks and recreation departments have been established because a healthy lifestyle is every bit as important as economics in fostering a sense of well-being. The trail system, public concerts, libraries and various holiday events sponsored by the Town of Gilbert provide no fiscal gain for the community. But they, like the no-smoking signs, constitute a worthwhile use of public funds to promote a healthier, happier community.
I find it absurd that Moers would attack the Town Council for allocating a paltry $600 — the entire cost for the 12 signs posted in Freestone Park — in its attempt to protect park users from the well-documented dangers of second-hand smoke. I have to question this sudden burst of fiscal conservatism from a man who thinks it liberal gibberish to oppose spending $600 billion to fund an ill-conceived war in Iraq.
Moers asks if the Town Council’s expenditure “ever went out for bid or was this purchase done on a good-ol’-boy handshake,” clearly concerned with the integrity of a comparatively small outlay. How unfortunate his curiosity isn’t equally piqued by the vast sums of federal tax dollars lost to “unaccounted for” Pentagon disbursements and sweetheart deals parceled out to Bush administration pals. Talk about budget-busting controversies worthy of exploration!
In Moers’ worldview, spending $600 to make Freestone Park a healthier place is a bad investment, yet borrowing billions (from China) to fund a non-essential war is sound financial planning.
I wholeheartedly agree that the Town Council must find a way to reduce spending, but I don’t think its $600 compromise to place restrictions on smoking in Freestone Park should be considered a crusade to appease the wishes of a select, “self-righteous” few. Given the popularity of anti-smoking referendums — not just locally, but world-wide as well — I think it’s safe to conclude that the majority of creatures with lungs favor a smoke-free environment.
Sandi Glauser is a resident of Gilbert.