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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The West Chester "alcohol plan"

Right now, the so-called West Chester "alcohol plan" (alcohol mitigation plan? alcohol enforcement and mitigation plan? get the drunks off my street plan? tax the bars plan? quixotic quest to teach WCU kids to enjoy the alcohol-free life plan? I don't know what the hell to call it) is in that amorphous, still-being-drafted phase.

The plan I'm talking about is the same, and different, than the "pour tax" plan I wrote about in February. But the "pour tax" may be losing viability, leaving the plan pour-tax-less.

The plan is supposed to involve police enforcement, codes enforcement, alternative sentencing for alcohol offenders, litter cleanup, weekend night bus transit, alcohol abuse education, and more! And it's got to be paid for somehow - either by a tax on the drinks local restaurants and bars serve (the "pour tax"), or by a combination of a "special assessment district" tax on liquor licensees, new Saturday night parking fees, funding from the university, and funding from the state.

"Multifaceted" would be a kind way to describe the plan. That multifacetedness was on display during the alcohol plan meeting State Sen. Andy Dinniman held in the borough on Tuesday night. The meeting wasn't open to the general public, but I was one of the invitees. Also at the meeting were borough council members, borough administrators, WCU representatives, and local restaurant owners. What I observed was an overflow of ideas, some of which sounded good, and some of which sounded silly.

For example:

- Local Realtor Stan Zukin (landlord of many a borough drinking establishment) suggested that the borough regulate the price of alcohol. Specifically, Zukin suggested that borough set the minimum price of a beer at $3. Borough Manager Ernie McNeely responded, "We can't do that, Stan." Zukin also suggested that bar owners get together to agree on a minimum beer price. "I'm not talking about collusion," Zukin added.

- District Justice Gwenn Knapp talked about Young Adult Community Conferencing, a restorative justice program she started three years ago. This program is available to 18 to 24 year olds busted for alcohol-related crimes. Instead of paying some of the standard fines, those who opt to participate in this program are put in contact with their victims. Working with a mediatior, the "perps" and victims figure out a way for the perps to make amends. Knapp said that young people who go through this program are far less likely than those who go through normal sentencing to be arrested for a second alcohol-related crime. Family services, the agency that runs the program, is seeking more funding YACC, so that it can be made available to more people.

- Several borough restaurant owners said they would like the alcohol program to be funded, in part, by new Saturday night parking garage fees. At the moment, it costs nothing to park in borough garages on Saturday nights. The restaurant owners said that while a pour tax might chase customers away, parking fees will not. To which I humbly respond: people don't know when they're being charged a pour tax. But they sure as hell know when they are being charged to park.

It goes on and on.

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