Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Council in favor of social host ordinance


After countless hours of hard work gathering data and support, a group of local youth saw their efforts validated Tuesday evening when the Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to have city staff work on a social host ordinance.
Members of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Teen Coalition and the city’s Youth Council, with the support of several local youth agencies, advocated for the discussion and passage of legislation that would hold people accountable for underage drinking at parties held on their property.

A survey conducted by ADAP Teen Coalition members at local schools revealed that 91 percent of participants said their home is the easiest place to get alcohol and 80 percent felt underage drinking directly contributes to youth violence.
“Drugs and alcohol are no stranger to the high school scene,” said Chris McDermut, chair of the Youth Council.
During a presentation to the City Council, youth leaders said a social host ordinance would provide a stronger deterrent to underage drinking and give law enforcement officers more authority.
“The gap in the law right now is the location,” said Roberta Payan, coordinator of the ADAP Teen Coalition.
While state law prohibits underage drinking on public or commercial land, private property is not covered. In addition, authorities currently cannot respond to parties unless they are unruly or violate noise regulations.
Social host legislation would allow law enforcement to shut down a party, fine the host, require the host to attend training on hosting responsible parties, and levy recovery costs for police and emergency response.
In addition to asking city leaders to discuss a social host ordinance, youth representatives asked that several recommendations be considered as well.
“We are recommending an educational component be included to give hosts the opportunity to learn from the incident,” said Christina Gonzalez, vice chair of the Youth Council.
Other suggestions included using a portion of fines to support teen prevention programs, keeping youth involved in the process, and exempting family, cultural and religious events that may involve the consumption of alcohol.
“Because it’s coming from you, I’m taking this much more seriously,” Councilmember Helene Schneider told the youth representatives. “This is coming from the teens, telling us what they think will work. … That carries a lot of weight for me.”
Other city leaders agreed, voting unanimously to send the concept on to the city’s Ordinance Committee along with the recommendations. Gonzalez and others expressed hope that the legislation will be in place in time for high school graduation in June, a concept the council seemed to agree with.
“Every year we read about some horrible tragedy about some young people on their graduation having some horrible accident,” Councilmember Iya Falcone said.
City leaders also asked that a member from the ADAP Teen Coalition and one from the Youth Council sit with the Ordinance Committee during the future discussions of the legislation.

No comments: