Student Liaison Commission Unanimously Votes to Oppose Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance

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The City of Davis and the police department have a lot of work to do if they want to get student buy-in for the proposed alcohol preclusion act.  Following a lengthy discussion, where students consistently expressed concern with the ordinance and distrust for the intentions of the police, the Student Liaison Commission, comprised mainly of students with a few voting members from the public at-large, voted to oppose the ordinance.

The final version of that motion did incorporate language that left issues open and encouraged future discussions.

John Youmans, commission member from the public-at-large, made a friendly amendment to add language that the body would like to see more discussion among the various groups in the community.  He argued, “More talking needs to happen rather than is this just right or wrong.”

That substitute motion got formalized into language that was originally used in addressing the open container ordinance.

First, “Both the campus community and the City of Davis should take, and mutually support, actions which address problem alcohol consumption that is associated with irresponsible and unlawful behaviors, high risk and underage drinking, and public health and safety concerns.”

Second, “The City of Davis has a responsibility to consider the perspectives of community and campus student organizations to assure that laws restricting public alcohol consumption are fairly developed and consistently enforced to engender broad based community support.”

And third, “Student groups and their representatives have both a right and a responsibility to work with City law enforcement and government officials to assure that all perspectives regarding an Open Container Ordinance are articulated and to assure that local regulations are well promoted, understood and respected.”

That motion passed unanimously, with Kemble Pope representing the Davis Chamber of Commerce abstaining, explaining that he had no direction from his board on how to vote on this matter.

The chair of the UC Davis Student Liaison Commission and President of ASUCD, Adam Thongsavat, told the body that while he liked Captain Darren Pytel, he still is bothered by this proposal and stands by his initial comments against it.

“I cannot vote for this in good faith,” he said. “In terms of relations this takes everything that the police and the City of Davis have done and stirred it up.”

“I’m 22 years old,” he said, “if I were 20 years old, I would look at this as overarching city government trying to parent my life.”

He cited Picnic Day 2011 as an example where the various stakeholders, including the students, worked together to produce “a pretty good result.”

He asked the city and police to work with the students to help draft a better solution that addresses their concerns.

Captain Darren Pytel of the Davis Police Department explained that the police department had wanted the City Council to hear the proposal first but that “we really did expect that it would be sent out to work with this commission” and end up in front of the fraternities and sororities, where there could be discussions about how to proceed.  “That was anticipated and now we’re going through the process,” he added.

Rebecca Sterling, a former ASUCD Senator and current UCD Relations Chair, said that this ordinance came as a shock and she believes that students should have been involved in the conversation from the start.

Yara, a current ASUCD Senator, had issues with the term “reasonable cause,” arguing she would feel more comfortable with something like “objective symptoms.”  She stated flatly, “Our biggest issue is there is distrust between students and police.  This really did not help at all.”

She cited a good relationship last year between the Police and Greek Life as the result of pre-Picnic Day conversations.  The result was that no one from Greek Life was arrested at all.  She said that they had built a good relationship but “I think this completely destroys that.  It’s going to cause more issues because I wouldn’t call the police on my party if all my friends are going to get breathalyzed on their way out.  I would probably stay at a party that was getting out of hand, too.”

Carly Sandstrom, the ACUCD External Affairs Chair said, “Having this act increases the gap between the student and the police population.  It doesn’t help with wanting to communicate with their neighbors – if you’re going to have a party – because, regardless, you can get fined.”

One of the issues that came up was that this ordinance is modeled after one in Del Norte County which has a very different population base than Davis.  It does not have a university or that kind of environment.  It also does not specify a blood alcohol level but rather makes reference to having consumed any level of alcohol.

Captain Pytel explained, “What we’re trying to do is establish if a person consumes alcohol and it’s more than just a drink, it’s probably going measure .01 percent…  What we didn’t want to do is have a minor at a party consuming alcohol and trying to gauge am I .01, am I .02, if I’m at two beers am I .05, and then guess.”

“What we’re trying to do is stop minors, those under 21, from going into a party and consuming alcohol,” he said.  “There is no legal way for a minor to have gone into a party and received alcohol.  It’s illegal for anyone to contribute that alcohol to them.”

Captain Pytel said the gap in the law is that there is no law against a minor consuming alcohol in a private place.  Moreover, he said there has been a change of behavior, whether they have become more sophisticated in their approach to drinking.

“Minors aren’t just going into a public place carrying alcohol anymore,” Captain Pytel said.  “Everyone’s gotten smarter than that.  They’re drinking alcohol in a private place where they know that they can do and they know law enforcement’s not going to go in… cite them, arrest them, and take their alcohol.  So everyone’s changed their drinking behavior.”

Currently there is no ordinance that makes that illegal, so all the police can do is deal with them when they get out of hand.  He also pointed out that implied consent does not apply in this case.

He said that when people apply to get a driver’s license they are signing a contract that says that people will consent to take a breathalyzer test if there is probable cause to believe that someone has over a .01 blood alcohol level.

“We actually can say here’s a breathalyzer, blow,” he said but pointed out, “We actually can’t force a person to blow into a breathalyzer, that’s impossible.  So if a person refuses to blow, then administratively the Department of Motor Vehicles suspends a person’s driver’s license for a year.  There’s a sanction for not consenting to that sort of test.”

There is no implied consent for this ordinance, “so we cannot compel a person.”  So if a person refuses, and the police can demonstrate through evidence – observed actions and behaviors – that an individual is over the .01 blood alcohol level, then a judge could still impose the ordinance on the individual.

Captain Pytel argued that this ordinance does not give police the ability to stop anyone on the street who is under the age of 21.  “They have to be displaying some objective symptoms that they have alcohol in their blood,” he said.  “That’s tough to do.   Because the average person who is at .01 is not going to be displaying objective symptoms.  It’s going to take someone who has had quite a bit more alcohol before they begin displaying such symptoms.”

John Youmans said, “There seems to be a lot of mistrust that this is pointing at them and nobody else.”  He continued, “This is pointing right at them and they don’t like it.  I have to believe it’s probably true they have a valid point.”

He asked Captain Pytel for an estimation of how many people they plan to cite.

“I don’t know for sure,” Captain Pytel replied.  He cited current laws involving minors and alcohol at parties where it is illegal for the person throwing the party to furnish alcohol to minors and suggested that most people cannot think of a single person cited under these laws, despite the fact that they are violated all the time.  “That’s a current ordinance we have.  It’s perfectly legal and perfectly enforceable.  But I have to admit, it’s very hard to enforce that one.”

He added that, unless people are out causing a problem, they are not likely to draw attention to themselves and unlikely to be cited under this new ordinance.

John Youmans, “For me it’s hard to be against [the ordinance] because it makes sense.  But there’s a real credibility issue – an us versus them issue that the community needs to get over before the city council acts.”  He added, “I’m really perceiving that from this talk we’ve had.”

With the students unanimously voting to oppose the ordinance, the matter now will come back before council.  They must act on it within 45 days of Picnic Day if they wish for it to be in effect on Picnic Day.

However, at least at this point, it seems questionable that the council would want to go forward without support and buy-in from the students.

—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 “Student Liaison Commission Unanimously Votes to Oppose Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance”

  1. Mr.Toad

    From a recent letter to the editor in the Enterprise: “Both neighborhood associations object to all changes proposed, including extending party ending times, increasing noise level limits and reducing advance notice time for party permits. We believe these changes will degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods and our city, and worsen the noise problems we are already enduring.”

    So it seems the young and the old in this town are polarized to extremes. I suggest the young start voting if they want more control over civic life.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]He cited Picnic Day 2011 as an example where the various stakeholders, including the students, worked together to produce “a pretty good result.”[/quote]

    If the result had been “pretty good”, the Police Chief would have had no need to introduce this ordinance. And many of the outlying neighborhoods would disagree that the result was “pretty good”…

  3. 91 Octane

    I second elaine’s comments. where is this “pretty good result” to which he is referring to? My understanding is the police had their hands full on this picnic day.

    but it also suggests those on this commission rather than adress the problem, simply want to stick their collective heads in the sand.

  4. 91 Octane

    if this article is good representation of student sentiment, then it is clear the students do not want to have a conversation, they just want to kill anything that holds them accountable for their behavior.

  5. Steve Hayes

    Downtown Davis is no longer family friendly or senior friendly after dark anymore. With the ever-increasing number of bars (and restaurants converting to bars)staying open until midnight now, it is Russian roulette for downtown drivers to attempt to dodge young adults (sober or not)while they increasingly ride unlit bicycles or cross streets in roving bands in mid-block while dressed in dark clothing.

  6. JustSaying

    [quote]“…a lengthy discussion, where students consistently expressed concern with the ordinance and distrust for the intentions of the police…”[/quote]Wow, if this is accurate it suggests that these folks won’t be progressing if they spend their meeting time “[b]consistently expressing…distrust for the intentions of the police[/b].”

    Did anyone say a single word about why they claim to distrust the “intentions of the police”? What do they think are the “intentions of the police” that are not to be trusted?[quote]“Currently there is no ordinance that makes that illegal, so all the police can do is deal with them when they get out of hand.”[/quote]Oh, great, that’s just fine. So, let’s not stop and talk to our kids [u]before[/u] they kill or injure someone or damage property or hurt themselves? Is that what you mean by “deal with them when they get out of hand”? [quote]“With the students unanimously voting to oppose the ordinance, the matter now will come back before council. They must act on it within 45 days of Picnic Day if they wish for it to be in effect on Picnic Day. However, at least at this point, it seems questionable that the council would want to go forward without support and buy-in from the students.”[/quote]First, how many people voted at the Student Liaison Committee?

    Second, why does it seem questionable that the council would approve an ordinance:

    1. that protects the safety and property of the very minors who feel (and are, of course) targeted, as well as as the rest of populace and visitors,

    2. that high school and university students are welcome to address just as the rest of us with the city council,

    3. that the police have requested to deal with a “loophole” in present enforcement law, and

    4. that the rest of the community likely overwhelmingly supports?

  7. David M. Greenwald

    JS: I think the key concern is that police can or will use this ordinance to drive down the street, see a group of college students walking late at night, and stop or detain them.

    I would say nine or ten people.

    Why does it seem questionable? First, because without student buy-in it’s not really going to be effective. Second, there are three lawyers on the council that recognize that while it may be legal, the impacts of it will be fairly small in terms of the drinking problem.

    1. Can’t mandate minors blow into breathalyzer.
    2. Doesn’t impact private parties or drinking on private property
    3. Creates an incentive to perhaps engage in more risky behavior
    4. Creates a disincentive to self-police parties, break up parties, and disperse parties.

  8. JustSaying

    Why would police use this ordinance “to drive down the street, see a group of college students walking late at night, and stop or detain them”?

    What does “student buy-in” have to do with whether this ordinance will be “effective”? Are you suggesting they’ll engage in civil disobedience that will keep it from being “effective”? How will “student buy-in” make the ordinance effective? Why would the council, even the lawyers, be against “fairly small” impacts (so [u]you[/u] say) coming from an ordinance that helps Davis police do their job? Incremental improvements still are improvements.

    1. Who cares if minors cannot be required to blow into breathalyzer? Police will ask minors if there’s a reasonable cause to. Some will, some won’t, so what?

    2. Who cares if “it doesn’t impact” private drinking on private property? It’s aimed helping police deal with minors in public areas.

    3. [u]What[/u] incentive? [u]What[/u] “more risky behavior”? Please be specific. (And, please be serious. Please don’t claim drunk minors will have the brain power and motivation to find a car and zoom by the police who are hanging out on the sidewalk waiting to stop them if they walk down the street.)

    4. This one certainly is a joke, right? A disincentive to follow existing laws, to “do the right thing,” to care about the health and well-being of friends, to respect one’s neighbors?

    And, on the off chance that if they “self-police” their party that there’s a cop in town somewhere on their walking route home with nothing better to do that to use “this ordinance to drive down the street, see a group of college students walking late at night, and stop or detain them.”

    Of course, this whole “disincentive” rationale is based on the concept that the people who are disincentivized already are purposely breaking the law by serving alcohol to minors at their party. Whew, what a stretch!

    What actions are you suggesting will result in student buy in? It seems mostly whining that “you didn’t talk to me before you suggested this to the city council.”

  9. medwoman

    JustSaying

    1) “some will, some won’t, so what ?”. Potential waste of police time, effort, resources.
    2) ” Who cares if it doesn’t …..”. From a medical and social point of view, prevention would be far more effective than hit or miss apprehension.
    3) perhaps staying in the high risk environment longer increasing their risk of alcohol poisoning, injury, date rape, as their inhibitions are further
    lowered.

    Again, rather than just taking this from the police perspective and acting, I would like for the council to get some other opinions on management of adolescent substance abuse and prevention by other professionals as well, pediatricians, adolescent psychologists, substance abuse counsellors for example. This is a bigger issue than just catching the random kid on the street by chance, and I would like to see the issue addressed comprehensively.

  10. JustSaying

    medwoman, you’re probably 100% correct in 1) and 2), but neither comment is a reason not to have this ordinance in place. It’s not really a waste if police deal talk with a minor who subsequently won’t take breathalyzer test.

    And, while prevention always is a perfect method of avoiding bad results of bad acts, the police are asking for a tool to deal with kids for whom prevention might not have worked. Of course, it won’t snag every single buzzed teenager walking Davis’ streets, but partial effectiveness is better than none. [i]Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.[/i]

    I’m against alcohol poisoning, injury, date rape–the question is why would this ordinance create the incentive for more risky behavior, thereby further lowering their inhibitions, thereby causing these three tragedies? Remember, the people you’re describing already are purposeful law-breakers.

    If they’re drinking and/or doing drugs at a party on private property, they already are involved in risky, illegal behavior. The objective is to have ways to keep them from hurting themselves or others or damaging property.

    Yes, let’s deal comprehensively with the problem of adolescent substance abuse. It makes no sense to avoid dealing with the effects of our past failure to solve the problem, however. This is not an either-or situation.

  11. medwoman

    JustSaying

    “I’m against alcohol poisoning, injury, date rape–the question is why would this ordinance create the incentive for more risky behavior, thereby further lowering their inhibitions, thereby causing these three tragedies? Remember, the people you’re describing already are purposeful law-breakers. “

    Granted these kids are already engaging in lawbreaking activity. My point is that at least some of them who might choose to leave a party sooner, while they still may have some judgement and inhibition left, may be deterred from leaving the perceived relative safety of the party if they fear being picked up by the police. There is a trade off here. I agree that this is not an either – or situation. I would just like to get the opinions of other experts in this area as well as that of the police before moving forward on what I perceive as a public health as well as a law enforcement issue.

  12. Mr.Toad

    My question for the kids, and, I have been asking it around town, is “What did you get on the AP Calculus test?”

    You know what? They all passed it most of them with 4 or 5. Now I know they didn’t have the test when most of you geezers were in school so let me fill you in. It means these kids are pretty smart, so, I don’t get the hateful hostility towards them and I’ll tell you from my conversations with them they feel victimized by the oppressive local attitude towards them from both the police and the natives. Remember you could do a lot worse than these young people, who, we should value in our community instead of looking for ever more ways to control their behavior.

  13. E Roberts Musser

    To Mr. Toad: I’m not hostile towards all students, just towards the ones who deface my property or vomit on my lawn or keep me up at night with their rowdy obnoxious behavior. They are interfering w my right to the peaceful enjoyment of my property…

  14. Andrew T.

    I am more than a little amused and saddened by the number of commenters to the several articles on this subject who have attempted to excuse underage, student misconduct and law breaking by citing the students’ alleged exceptional intelligence. They seem to suggest that smart chidren or people deserve a pass on being a burden or scourge on their community. The suggestion is absurd and insulting to people who understand the true meaning of society.

    Both those law-breaking, intoxicated, borish, ‘smart students’ and their seemingly like-minded defenders seem devoid of an even more important cerebral attibute–common sense. Intelligence is no substitute for common sense. Too many geniuses are totally incapable of navigating the intricacies of society and socialization because they lack common sense. (We all know a few of those sorts.) We need this ordinace as a step in the right direction; toward a common sense, culture change promising greater common courtesy and decency, and less of the “Me! Me! Me!” that characterizes Davis’ ‘child geniuses.’

    Those who argue that the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinace won’t cure the problem so we should discard it, seem to be suggesting that there is or should be some singular, perfect solution or law that will deliver us from the problems before we try to do anything. Tending to and trying to improve our society and our community is not a lot different from tending to our gardens. No successful gardener assumes that just preparing the soil, pruning/trimming, weeding, or watering alone will produce a flourishing garden. The gardener uses multiple tools. Tending to a peaceful, welcoming, flourishing society requires a similar approach. It requires tending to its ailments and provding an environment capable of supporting its ability to flourish with a wide spectrum of tools. Each tool may only improve a small piece of the whole, but used together the garden flourishes.

    The Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance is just one timely, well considered tool to complement the other tools we have, and those we should hope we will continue to develop with an eye on always improving. The objectors need to stop being enablers for conduct and activities that common sense tells us is not good for our society or our community, let alone the youths the law is directed at. Our education system and society in general will not be destroyed by having fewer drunk young people or a few more who weigh the ramifications of their conduct before they take their first drink.

  15. John

    Baseless generalizations about students and accusations of boorish behavior aside (presumably by those who probably don’t actually know too many students), most of the complaints focus on property destruction and rowdy behavior. However, the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance does not target this type of behavior, it targets minors with a BAC of 0.01 or greater. The majority of students do not engage in the type of behavior described, however the majority of students probably have been walking back to their dorms or apartments in this situation. Why would any student support an ordinance that would potentially target and cite them for quietly walking back to their place of residence after a social event?

  16. John

    Justsaying:
    [quote]Wow, if this is accurate it suggests that these folks won’t be progressing if they spend their meeting time “consistently expressing…distrust for the intentions of the police.” [/quote]

    You talk as if I didn’t watch my fellow students get pepper sprayed in the face by your well intentioned police a couple months ago.

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