Feb 09, 2010 Doug Campbell Uncategorized
While most attending a Monday Feb.1 public hearing to discuss the proposed Social Host local law seemed to support the intent of the law, both village of Cazenovia trustees and community members were split on how it should be applied.
While some said that the law requires leadership at the village level, others believed it should come from the town, county or state level.
“The goal of the Social Host law, which is just a violation, is to give local law enforcement sort of a middle ground between doing nothing and going for criminal prosecution. Which makes it more likely that, as appropriate, something will be done instead of nothing,” said Deputy Mayor Kurt Wheeler.
Wheeler said the current law offers no middle ground.
“If law enforcement becomes aware of a violation of existing state laws, they’re in a situation where they have to go to the D.A., seek prosecution of a criminal offense, which results, potentially, in jail time,” he said. “And they have to decide between doing nothing — essentially a warning — or going all the way and seeking criminal prosecution.”
Wheeler encouraged those in attendance to read the law for themselves.
Village Trustee Richard Huftalen addressed concerns that the law shouldn’t be enacted at the village level, and should instead come from the county or state level. He also addressed comments that other area boards haven’t adopted the measure.
“The fact that some other entity isn’t ready to endorse this isn’t a valid reason for me to say I won’t endorse it,” Huftalen said. “Acting in good faith as a member of this board, I’ve got to say, ‘what are the reasons they won’t adopt it?’ and then make my decision based on those reasons.”
Huftalen said that consideration of the local law is part of an important conversation that has to take place at a local level.
Trustees Amy Mann and Peggy Van Arnam expressed reservations about the bill.
“While I am 100 percent in favor of curbing underage drinking, I have reservations about whether this is the best way to do it,” Van Arnam said. “One thing I hope will happen is that regardless of the outcome of this particular piece of legislation, I hope that there will be a new effort to educate parents.”
Mann offered more specific concerns about the bill.
“I personally would prefer to let this come down from the state level,” she said.
Mann was concerned about unequal penalties from municipality to municipality within the Cazenovia Central School district.
Cazenovia High School Principal Eric Schnabl expressed his support for the law, citing underage drinking statistics that place Cazenovia at a rate 10-percent higher than the national average.
“Must we wait again for a tragedy to rock our community before we take a stand against underage drinking?” Schnabl said. “You can be part of the problem or part of the solution. What does the village board plan to be?”
Melissa Clarke, an initial proponent of the bill and chairperson of Caz Action, said that the bottom line of the law would be a decrease in underage drinking in the community.
“With this policy, we know that their access to drinking is going to be reduced. When we reduce access, we reduce consumption,” she said.
The village continued the public hearing to next month’s March 1 village board meeting at 6:45 p.m. Wheeler said the law could possibly be brought to a vote in March or delayed to a later meeting.