Let me try to get your attention: On Dec. 7, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will be deciding whether or not to outlaw drinking without a permit at Dogshit Park and several other parks. Unfortunately, last Wednesday night, the community representatives that make up the PAC/GPAC sent the Board an 8-2 vote in favor of this new restriction on the use of alcohol.
The option of acquiring a permit to drink obviously should not be at all comforting because this program is essentially a ban on drinking, unless of course you want to go to the I.V. Recreation and Parks District (IVRPD) offices every time you want to drink in the park and pay $10 for a permit, or $35 for a group of up to 10 people.
Why is this taking place? Supporters of the restrictions say it is because of the behavior of the homeless alcoholics. Let me first point out that just as all student residents of I.V. were punished because of commuters in the parking plan, student residents will once again be punished for a problem for which they are not responsible.
Secondly, this program will only be effective if the long-lost cure for alcoholism is stopping alcoholics from drinking in parks. Now, I know exactly how the backers of this plan would respond. They would say, “It’s not a solution, but it complements other measures to address the issue.” I just want someone to explain to me how requiring a permit to drink in the park will in any way, shape or form help reduce alcoholism among the homeless. Does anyone really believe that if the homeless are ticketed for drinking without a permit in the park, they won’t go someplace else to drink?
Alcoholism among the homeless is a tragic and serious issue, but it is a matter that can be addressed without establishing a permit program that punishes everyone. Public intoxication, drunken disorderly conduct and public defecation and urination are already prohibited and require the same amount of effort to enforce as a permit program would. The problem is that certain individuals are so preoccupied with getting the homeless out of the parks that they are not adequately considering what the consequences of doing so will be.
At the PAC meeting, one supporter of the program mentioned that IVRPD workers find homeless people who are dead from alcohol poisoning and how something needs to be done to prevent this from happening. Great – let’s have residents find dead bodies on the beach instead. I don’t see that as an improvement.
You can be rest assured the homeless will migrate elsewhere, as they already have from parks where this ordinance is already in effect. As opponents of this measure stated at the PAC meeting, the homeless will very likely go down to the beaches – where the IVFP are not as likely to be patrolling frequently – and harass locals, defecate and drink themselves to death there as they have in the parks. In response to this, the PAC member who made the motion to support the proposal said, “Works for me.” Does it work for you? Do you want to be required to buy a permit to drink at Dogshit or any other park just so you can encounter drunken homeless people somewhere else?
If not, I urge you to make your voice heard. December 7, the date of the board hearing, is right in the middle of Finals Week, so it won’t be easy for students to make it there. Nonetheless, you can still contact 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall and let her know how you feel about this. Call her office at 568-2192 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. With Brooks Firestone taking over in January, this will likely be the last vote Marshall will cast that will significantly affect I.V. students. Her time in office was made possible largely because of student support. Don’t let her forget it.
Todd Roberson is the A.S. representative of the I.V. PAC/GPAC.