Wednesday, January 26, 2005
To the Editor:
At the Jan. 12, 2005, Board of Selectmen meeting a “sense of the meeting resolution” on the underage drinking ordinance was discussed. That simply means the Board of Selectmen has no legal authority to vote on such a ordinance only the RTM can legally implement it.
Because of my apparent lack of support, [First Selectwoman] Diane [Farrell] asked that I attend a forum on underage drinking before taking this SYMBOLIC VOTE. I did so on Wednesday.
For the public record, I am holding to my original position and do not support a new underage drinking ordinance for some of the following reasons in no particular order of the importance:
1. The police did not request this ordinance.
2. The PTA maintains a neutral position and did not endorse this ordinance.
Basically, this ordinance would allow the police to enter private property and ticket underage drinkers. If that drinker is under 16 he (she) must pay a $90 fine and must go to juvenile court. If over 16, pay a $90 fine only. No court appearance.
Here is a possible fallout: Perhaps only one or two children are drinking—do the police ticket everyone? Most likely, yes. So certainly innocent kids will be ticketed. A record will exist and newspapers may print their names if 16 years of age or older.
I have not seen any police records that indicate any frequency of such parties. Ordinances on the books already allow any adult to be ticketed for serving minors. The key words here are PRIVATE PROPERTY and POLICE POWER
I could go on at some lengt, but I see no need. My position remains the same, “parents should parent and police should police.”
When my sons were growing up my wife, Joan, and I had a curfew for the boys. It, of course, grew later as they grew older, but we always made sure we were awake when they came home. I’ll bet the same tactics will work today.
In my view, we shouldn’t be in any hurry to turn our parental responsibilities over to the police.
Selectman John Izzo
Posted 01/26/05 at 06:12 PM Permalink
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IF parents were actually mindful of their responsibilities, perhaps we wouldn’t need to amend the existing ordinance. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a curfew. But I did know that if I broke the law, I would have to suffer the consequences. This applied to breaking the speed limit as well as to drinking without my parents’ permission. Most of those who oppose the amendment to the ordinance simply want their children to be able to continue to break the law without the threat of legal consequences. Would these same parents suggest an end to speeding tickets as well so their precious darlings could speed with impugnity?
The Drinking Ordinance:
To Endanger and Disengage the Underage
It is evident that the recent underage drinking ordinance that has been introduced by the town of Westport has caused a substantial amount of controversy since its implementation. In recent years, as the prominence of underage drinking has become more apparent, it has become inevitable that a serious piece of legislation cracking down on underage drinking, such as this new drinking ordinance, would be established, widely supported, and eventually carried out by local authorities. However, as the extensive negative effects of the ordinance have begun to spring up through the roots of a confined and frustrated youth, it has become clear that the same mothers, fathers, and staunch adversaries to the presence of underage drinking in Westport are not truly looking out for the best interest of the underage, and should quickly rethink their position in regards to the best way to oppose underage drinking.
The drinking ordinance has now given Westport police the authority to enter onto private property, ticket drinkers who are underage, provide those over sixteen with a ninety dollar fine, and those under sixteen with a juvenile court date for appearance. The ordinance also provides those caught drinking underage with a record of the arrest and a print up in the newspaper. Long gone are the days when parents allow their kids to have a few friends over to drink a few beers and have a barbeque in the sanctity of their own homes. The high school house party has become nearly obsolete for fear of the effects of this ordinance. Although Westport parents and members of the community would be thrilled to know that their children now fear having house parties, most adults are too naive and ignorant to notice that by eliminating the casual get together or house party from the lives of underage drinkers, they are nearly ensuring that their children become exposed to the numerous dangers from binge drinking, like alcohol poisoning and hospitalization.
As kids become more and more frustrated from a lack of drinking and partying in a social setting, there is a greater inclination to participate in intense binge drinking before large social events like proms and community dances like the “Red and Whites” ball. As I am sure most of the Westport community is aware, many members of the senior class of 2008 excessively abused alcohol on the night of the Red and Whites ball and numerous kids went to the hospital to get their stomachs pumped and to get treated for alcoholism. The life-threatening and chaotic events that transpired that night should be a lesson to the citizens of Westport that by allowing this ordinance to remain effective, we are creating greater risk for the community’s youth. By keeping the children in Westport segregated and incapable of gathering for large parties, when social events occur in which a large portion of the student body is in attendance, there is a much greater pressure to make that special night compensate for the constant social segregation that they face during usual weekends.
Despite the countless dangers from alcohol facing the children in these situations, the psychological and emotional effects of social seclusion caused by this drinking ordinance may be even more detrimental to the youth of Westport. Because kids now fear hosting large house parties or amassing a large portion of the student body in a social setting, those who do not have a usual, defined, or comfortable group of friends that they can get together with in smaller situations suffer from this drinking ordinance. The ordinance hinders youth from branching out their relationships with different people, because kids in Westport are incapable of gathering in large quantities without alcohol becoming involved, and people are no longer willing to put their property, parents, or futures at risk to try and amass a large group of people in hopes that no alcohol will be present.
It is evident that this new underage drinking ordinance has lead to more dangerous and detrimental effects on the youth of Westport than if it had never been implemented. It has failed in its purpose of eliminating the existence and risks of underage drinking, and it has only intensified the issue at hand. It is my adamant belief that by suppressing and nearly eliminating the ability to host a house party or other social gathering involving alcohol, this ordinance has created great social seclusion and even endangered the lives of the Westport youth.