City Raises Fines on Picnic Day, But Will It Be Enough to Stop the Trend Towards Drunkenness and Public Nuisance?

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police-lineLast week, the City of Davis, looking to take more measures to prevent a repeat of what happened at Picnic Day last year, gave police officers the authority to double fines for violations within a specific safety zone.

Fines for violations of open containers of alcohol in public and excessive noise will rise from $160 to $320.

Last year, drinking and partying reached new highs or lows, and the city has been working with merchants and bars to prevent a repeat.  Much of this is window dressing, but by eliminating early morning drinking, at the very least they send the message that times have changed.

This is really the last measures that the city can take without drastically cutting back on the activities of Picnic Day, or eliminating it altogether.

The safety zone will extend along First Street from A to the Railroad tracks, along Fifth/ Russell from A to the railroad tracks, along A Street from First to Russell and along the tracks from First to Fifth.

Will this work?  The council was obviously hoping that the message would get out there that the fines would be higher and that would curtail some of the partying.

However, there are some obvious flaws with the plan.  First, it is not clear that the safety zone is the only area of problem.  A lot of problems occur at parties in private residences.  That said, by creating the core area as a safety zone, it may at least avoid the problem of drunk students all coalescing on the downtown.

A second problem is that students and young people from outside of the area are often the ones that come in, get drunk, and create a problem.  The city will place 25 signs in the safety zone as notice – a cost of $1250 – but will out-of-towners get the word and will they see the signs?

The third problem is that while students may intellectually know this issue when they are sober, when they start drinking, all bets and inhibitions may be off.

The bottom line point, and one I think all will acknowledge, is that increasing the fines is not going to make a huge difference in either drinking or behavior.  Instead, substantial change will take a concerted effort from all involved.

Towards that end, we see the editorial in the Sacramento Bee, which argued that that cooperation is vital if Davis and UC Davis are to save Picnic Day.

They write, “City, university and business leaders in Davis are pulling together admirably to save Picnic Day. But for their plan to work on April 16, it’s going to take the cooperation of residents, UC Davis students and, most of all, bar and restaurant operators.”

“Something clearly had to change after the debauchery and drunkenness last April, almost all off campus. The wide-ranging plan, put together by a community task force, depends on public education, persuasion and punishment,” they continue, privately patting themselves on the back for finding a way to use the term “debauchery” in an editorial.

They continue, “With limited city authority over establishments with alcohol licenses, the task force is also pushing a voluntary ‘covenant’ to control sales. Last April, some bars opened as early as 6 a.m. and offered cut-rate specials. The covenant includes an agreement not to open before 11 a.m. and not to offer big discounts.”

Here is the problem, as of Friday only 18 of the 60 targeted businesses of downtown have signed on to the covenant.

Wrote the Bee, “Mayor Joe Krovoza says he’ll publicly shame those who don’t. As he points out, these businesses rely on UC Davis  for their livelihoods. They ought to be responsible. That would go a long way toward restoring Picnic Day’s original mission, an open house celebrating town-gown relations.”

The problem, of course, is without the cooperation of everyone, this will not work.  The city has probably done all it can.  And it may not be enough.  We will have to see.

I look forward to seeing how Mayor Krovoza plans to publicly shame those who have not signed on.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 thoughts on “City Raises Fines on Picnic Day, But Will It Be Enough to Stop the Trend Towards Drunkenness and Public Nuisance?”

  1. hpierce

    [quote]The bottom line point, and one I think all will acknowledge, is that increasing the fines is not going to make a huge difference in either drinking or behavior. Instead, substantial change will take a concerted effort from all involved.[/quote]OK… you have implied that the city is poised to be ineffective… you offer no alternatives… that’s certainly a “safe” place to be…

  2. biddlin

    “With limited city authority over establishments with alcohol licenses, the task force is also pushing a voluntary ‘covenant’ to control sales. Last April, some bars opened as early as 6 a.m. and offered cut-rate specials. The covenant includes an agreement not to open before 11 a.m. and not to offer big discounts.”
    But that doesn’t mean Davis isn’t business friendly.
    “Mayor Joe Krovoza says he’ll publicly shame those who don’t. As he points out, these businesses rely on UC Davis for their livelihoods. They ought to be responsible. That would go a long way toward restoring Picnic Day’s original mission, an open house celebrating town-gown relations.” “I look forward to seeing how Mayor Krovoza plans to publicly shame those who have not signed on.—David M. Greenwald reporting”
    Stocks? Tattoos of “Drunkard” or “Slattern” perhaps? I come from a background where we shunned the heck out of sinners. I’m going back to bed now and will hopefully awaken in the 21st century.

  3. Gunrock

    This solution does not even address the problem. The arrival in the late afternoon to early evening of members of various ethnic minorities (oh my, did I just say that!?) not from Davis changes the situation. [Note- since this is Davis, I know that we are not allowed to notice these things, but if you were downtown after dark on Picnic Day the plain fact that the streets were filled with people obviously not from Davis would have been overpowering.] Picnic Day was long over when this occurs. The obvious answer (unless of course we allow the Davis Police Department to use their discretion and roust the obvious trouble makers regardless of their ethnic background) is to have wrist-bands provided during the day on campus. If you don’t have the wrist bands, you can’t get into downtown later. Charge a fee for the wrist bands during the day to fund the whole exercise. Blaming the fraternities is about as sensible as rounding up the jews to deal with a crop failure. They had nothing to do with the problem.

  4. Justin Kudo

    I genuinely feel like this is more impotent rage about the “chaos” of last year’s Picnic Day than anything meaningful. First it was the businesses getting thrown under the bus. Then it was about the students, who are easy targets due to their lack of participation in city politics. Now it’s about people “drinking in public”.

    This will change absolutely nothing. It’s an outdoor “party holiday” in a college town. Of course there is going to be a lot of drinking, and fines for open containers in public isn’t going to curtail it one bit. And excessive noise fines during the day on a holiday? As if that will be exercised fairly. Furthermore, we’re talking about UC students who tend to not think about fines as much as older folks might… not to mention that many of these fines will ultimately be paid by their parents.

    I still argue that last year was a “perfect storm” scenario. Picnic Day had been rained out the previous year. We’d had two straight weeks (or more?) of rain before Picnic Day, and everyone was out and about to enjoy the good weather. I didn’t see a larger portion of the participants “drunk” than I had before – what I saw was far more total people than we’d seen before. This is not an alcohol issue.

    If Davis was legitimately interested in remedying the issues from last year, it would deal with the overcrowding issues in two ways:

    One, if feasible, Davis should consider closing the majority of downtown off to all vehicle traffic and open up the streets to pedestrian travel. This would greatly reduce crowding and altercations.

    Two, Davis should actively enforce occupancy limits on businesses; these were clearly not enforced during Picnic Day, and many locations became outright dangerous. Another way of doing this would be to have a “covenant” like the above mentioned one, but regarding occupancy limits. If anyone saw Bistro 33’s patio last year, they know exactly what I’m talking about.

    We need to stop these knee-jerk policy reactions in Davis, and stop scapegoating the easy targets instead of coming up with real solutions for problems.

  5. Roger Rabbit

    lol Sacramento just passed a “Crash tax”, now Davis has a “Picnic Tax”. If we put guards at every entry point to the city and check cars, we can tax/fine people bringing in food or drinks from other cities since they did not buy their stuff here in Davis. Just a thought.

  6. Alphonso

    The great majority of UCD students are very responsible and all they need are simple reminders – not hefty fines. Davis should hire about 100 UCD students – a vanguard of people (wearing recognizable sweatshirts) responsible for monitoring potential “hot spots” and working ahead of police sweeps to issue warnings and help identify situations that require police attention. Most of the issues would be solved without police intervention and the police could focus their attention on real problems. Using student monitors would cost less than bringing in temporary police officers, would be effective and it would demonstrate an interest in improving student/city relations.

  7. roger bockrath

    I had no idea that there are 60 business in downtown Davis licensed to sell alcohol.

    It would be interesting to see just what the covenant, that these businesses are being encouraged to sign on to, requires of them. Is there a list available that shows which businesses are cooperating with the covenant and which ones are not?

    Seems like failure to sign on by the majority of alcohol vendors simply redirects business to the non-cooperators,providing them with a business advantage over those who are trying to be good citizens.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Here is the problem, as of Friday only 18 of the 60 targeted businesses of downtown have signed on to the covenant.”

    This is very unfortunate. I know if I find out who the businesses are that would not cooperate, I will not give them my custom in future.

    dmg: “Wrote the Bee, “Mayor Joe Krovoza says he’ll publicly shame those who don’t. As he points out, these businesses rely on UC Davis for their livelihoods. They ought to be responsible. That would go a long way toward restoring Picnic Day’s original mission, an open house celebrating town-gown relations.””

    I hope Mayor Joe Krovoza can find a way to “shame” those businesses who would not sign onto the convenant. Works for me. I have a choice where I take my dollars and spend them…

    By the way, I absolutely love Alphonso’s suggestions of student monitors. I think that is a great idea. Someone needs to suggest this to UCD/Landy Black.

  9. craised

    So, the Banana Republic of Davis wants to publicly shame businesses who want to sell adult beverages to adults.
    If the City of Woodland, Winters or any town for that matter, decided to publicly shame any business who wanted to feed the homeless, or they simply wanted to stop selling homeless people alcohol because they don’t want these people walking their streets, you guys would throw a fit!!!

    I think we need to float a city bond issue so we can build a moat around Davis.

  10. craised

    [quote]craised: Please do not at all assume that the views of an internet blog or its posters are representative of the attitude of Davis as a whole.[/quote]

    I do agree.

  11. DT Businessman

    I am confident that all 60 of the downtown ABC license holders will have signed the covenant by the time Picnic Day rolls around. There may be a straggler here or there. And the vast majority of the ABC license holders outside of Downtown will have signed the covenant as well.

    There are a fair number of measures being implemented that in the aggregrate will likely bring the event back on track. As is the case with many of our challenges, there is no silver bullet. It will require a dedicated, sustained effort. I want to thank all those community members who have invested an incredible number of manhours since last April and will continue to do so up to and including Picnic Day.

    A number of the comments that have been posted here are irresponsible, uninformed, and counter productive. Taking pot shots from the bleachers is pretty easy. Making a difference is altogether another matter.

  12. E Roberts Musser

    DTB: “I am confident that all 60 of the downtown ABC license holders will have signed the covenant by the time Picnic Day rolls around. There may be a straggler here or there. And the vast majority of the ABC license holders outside of Downtown will have signed the covenant as well.”

    That would be great, and go a long way to improve the situation. Additionally, I think it would create a lot of good will towards downtown businesses.

    DTB: “There are a fair number of measures being implemented that in the aggregrate will likely bring the event back on track. As is the case with many of our challenges, there is no silver bullet. It will require a dedicated, sustained effort. I want to thank all those community members who have invested an incredible number of manhours since last April and will continue to do so up to and including Picnic Day.”

    I agree that it is going to take a multi-pronged approach to resolve this problem. And I am very grateful to all who have taken the trouble to try and search for solutions to a very difficult problem. That is what “community” is all about.

    DTB: “A number of the comments that have been posted here are irresponsible, uninformed, and counter productive. Taking pot shots from the bleachers is pretty easy. Making a difference is altogether another matter.”

    I think part of the problem here is the public has been more or less shut out of the process. Wasn’t the committee tasked to come up w solutions meeting behind closed doors? Now there may be good reasons to do this, but I think citizens are understandably concerned about their town and its well being.

    JK: “craised: Please do not at all assume that the views of an internet blog or its posters are representative of the attitude of Davis as a whole.”

    Very good point, and one we who comment on this blog should remember. Many of us agree on some issues, not others, but the conversations are never dull!

  13. DT Businessman

    E Roberts Musser, your constructive comments are appreciated. All or most public policy could use more public outreach and engagement. Since time and resources are not unlimited, outreach and engagement must be measured. Consequently, I don’t think “shut out of the process” is a fair characterization. The first committee meeting back in April was followed by media interviews, which resulted in a number of Dunning commentaries and Enterprise letters. There have been a fair number of media reports, press releases, and commentaries since. There has been a CC meeting. A community forum was held on 11/3/10, which was attended by approx. 30 residents, local business owners, UCD students, etc. There was a fairly descriptive follow-up article, which can be accessed at http://www.davisenterprise.net. And there is a public PD/bar owners meeting to be held Feb, 24, 3:30pm, location to be announced. Of course, any one of the relevant citizen commissions can address the matter.

  14. DT Businessman

    Gunrock, I am quite confident that the vast majority of people in Davis are apathetic to any number of pressing issues, especially those that are complex, nuanced, requiring sustained effort, incapable of being captured in a 30 second sound bite. Not all community issues can be captured with an image of a bicycle, a solar panel, a burrowing owl, or a death panel.

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