Rules of the Road

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my thoughts on issues pertaining to Oil City and Venango County and to foster discussion.

However, that requires some basic rules. Personal attacks, inappropriate language and venom-filled postings will not be tolerated. Comments will be screened, and if necessary edited, before posting.

Disagreement and a variety of opinions are encouraged, but I ask that it always be in a respectful, positive manner. So fire away, but do so cleanly

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Open Containers and Me

Mayor Barb Crudo and other members of council made it clear last week in response to organizers of the Oil Heritage softball tournament that council would take a look at the open container ordinance. 

Tournament organizers and their backers claim the open container ordinance and its enforcement is threatening the future of the tournament, at least the future of it within the city and the money that brings to the community.  

Certainly Council should weigh the plus and minuses of the ordinance, but make no mistake about it, the very real problems with and related to alcohol consumption at the tournament in recent years is what led to the strict enforcement of the ordinance. I would argue that it was not city council or administrators that demanded its enforcement, but the actions of some of the players and fans over the past couple of years and the failure of those in charge to rein it in. 

It was similar problems at numerous city events and venues that led to adoption of the open container ordinance in 1981.  It generated some controversy at the time, but overwhelmingly residents supported it.  Frankly, people were tired of going to an event and having to deal with people making a public display of drinking, sliding into inebriation and being jerks.  

The open container ordinance was a tool, and it worked well.  It was able to nip potential problems in the bud and it has made events in the city much more family friendly, problem free and civil. 

Opponents argued in 1981 and argue now that there are adequate laws on the books, such as public intoxication, disorderly conduct, etc.  to deal with issues that arise. They claim it would be a better approach because it addresses the person causing the problems rather than a prohibition that affects the innocent.  

However, there is a fundamental weakness to that argument: by the time someone crosses the line others – the innocent -- have already been impacted by the boorish behavior. To me, this is a huge issue. Who wants their children exposed to such behaviour? 

There is also the cost of enforcement. If the open container law is repealed outright and control is to be maintained at events and public places it will require a significant law enforcement presence. We only have so many cops to spread around the city and the clock.

Having said all that, I do think we need to explore modifying or rewriting the ordinance to allow consumption as specific events/venues by permit. The requirements for a permit would have to be carefully crafted.

My desired requirements would at the minimum include specific and confined locations and hours, a law enforcement presence paid for by the sponsoring organization(s), insurance held by the organizer(s) that covers alcohol consumption,  a way to control who is drinking and how much, and a clean- up agreement. 

I’m not sure how any BYOB event would fit into my criteria. 

And, of course, whatever we might want to do has to be allowed under state law and Liquor Control Board regulations. 

I will admit to a certain frustration over the entire issue, especially as it relates to the softball tournament. It is supposed to be a sporting event, not a drinking event.  The fact teams or fans threaten to stay away because they can’t drink on-site does not sit well with me. 

What frustrates me even more is so many people can get worked up about the open container ordinance and make it a priority when there are far more serious and important issues we should be talking about.  On the Venango Voice Facebook page there were 397 comments on the open container ordinance in one post and 75 people signed a Facebook page petition to rescind the ordinance. 

Compare that to the fact there was virtually no comments on the call by Franklin School Board President Brian Spaid for the area school districts to at least talk about exploring consolidation. That is a subject of real consequence. 

Or if you want to stick solely to city issues, the lack of comment or interest in the emerging rewrite of the zoning ordinance, the Main Street program, and I could go on and on. What are our priorities?


norm said...

Well said, John. You have articulated the problem well, and I agree that the tournament participants are engaging in a form of extortion when they threaten to stay away because they will not be able to drink on-site.

Dan Robertson said...

Welcome back, about time.