Taylor W. Anderson
Mar. 11, 2011
City Council Preview
HED: City Council meeting to center around Social Host ordinance
Missoula could start enforcing a new drinking law a month from now, but it’s got to pass through the City Council first, which may not be an easy task.
The city council Monday will hear the public’s concerns about the social host ordinance, a law that would punish adults that enable underage drinking parties. But some councilors still have their questions about it.
Councilman Dave Strohmaier, who drafted the proposal, said it was his attempt to curb Montana’s drinking problems from a local level.
“It’s not a silver bullet or solution that’s going to cure all of our alcohol-related problems,” Strohmaier said. “But it’s meant to be one piece of that solution.”
The proposal has been changed to meet concerns from councilors and the community about whom the law may unintentionally affect.
One problem with the proposed ordinance has been the word “knowledge,” which was used to try to determine who would be cited if an underage drinking party was busted.
The proposal has been changed to say that “knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability” that an underage party will happen.
If convicted a person will face a first offense fine of $500, and the punishment gets more severe with repeat offenses. But Councilman Bob Jaffe said the fine is just a fraction of the penalty.
“That’s only part of the cost,” Jaffe said. “The real significant part of the penalty is the cost of response. That can go into the thousands.”
Offenders of the proposal will have to cover the costs of police response, a price tag that was as high as ten thousand dollars for a party that police responded to in Grant Creek last December, Jaffe said.
Jaffe also expressed concern for the parents that may be cited for parties their kids have.
But Strohmaier feels good about his law as it stands headed into Monday’s meeting, and said that even if there’s strong opposition against the proposal during the meeting, it may not be enough to deter him from voting for it.
“I’m a firm believer that it’s not just a matter of numbers,” he said. “Having 25 people to one person doesn’t mean anything if the logic is flawed.”