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So far, the most vocal opponents of a ban were those who spoke up at the Ocean Beach Town Council meeting. After Bradshaw finished making his case, several people in the audience peppered him with counterarguments.

"Before you made the proposal, did you do any research to find out how many people come from other towns just to drink on Mission Beach?"

"Did you determine whether the problem is any worse now than it was in the '70s?"

"Did you analyze any data to see what the impact of a ban might be?"

"You know, most people who drink on the beach are local citizens who drink responsibly."

"We don't have the reputation of Mission Beach here in Ocean Beach. We aren't the ones being touted as a place to party by MTV."

"Do you think that your subjective evaluations about what you don't like are grounds for establishing a law for the entire community? Do you think that's fair, sir? Do you think your personal opinion should ride over the majority of the people?"

Carol Smith called the meeting to order and demanded that Mr. Bradshaw not be personally attacked. Bradshaw saw that the temperature was rising. He waved good-bye and headed "home to dinner." Then Dan Morales, an Ocean Beach resident and union organizer, made his case against a ban. "We have deeper problems with drinking and alcohol in our society that a beach ban will not touch.... Warts and all, Ocean Beach has character; a ban will take some of that character away.... We should not be motivated by fear.

"How many of us know of any other place on the West Coast where you can drink?" Morales asked rhetorically. "My point is that if we do adopt a 24-hour ban on drinking on Ocean Beach, we'll be losing part of our uniqueness as Ocean Beach. True, it may not be pretty, and it may cost the town, but it will be Ocean Beach. Myself and others favor extending the hours of drinking on Ocean Beach. Why? That would be true to our community character. Going for the easiest, quickest solutions to our problems with alcohol is not gonna cut it. It's not gonna cut it on the West Coast, on the East Coast, inland, anywhere. If we have a problem with alcohol, other solutions should be found. A 24-hour ban is not the way to go."

Smith had invited Richard Ensign -- a community relations officer with the western division of the San Diego Police Department, which serves Ocean Beach -- and several patrol officers to speak at the meeting. Also observing that things were heating up, the officers refrained from taking a position regarding a ban. They were there simply to vow that they would enforce whatever laws were on the books and that they would do so with the welfare of the community in mind. Things began to cool off until Smith declared to the room that she had spoken with Councilman Byron Wear's office regarding the proposal. Wear, who had served on the Ocean Beach Town Council, now represents it on the city council.

"I just wanted to announce that Byron Wear will go on record at a press conference on Monday, January 22, saying that he favors a citywide alcohol ban," Smith said. "Apparently, he favors the inland-park laws going into effect on the beaches."

At this point, town councilmembers Tom Perrotti and George Gonzales got excited. "If the city council will hear this matter and Byron Wear will make a statement about it, why aren't any of them here tonight to hear what we have to say?" Gonzales asked. "We're forced to act locally on so many things, like our storm drains, but on this matter the city council wants to come in and act immediately."

"This feels really rushed to me," Perrotti said. "Why is this so fast and so much else so slow? Personal freedom is part of the character of Ocean Beach, and we have to take time to consider that. This timetable is too fast."

Clearly flustered, the town council closed the meeting, claiming they wanted to discuss a course of action among themselves.

The next day, both Smith and Gonzales explained to me what the town council decided to do. "We came up with six bullet points," Smith said. "First, we will call Byron and ask him to delay his press conference because we have not had the time to discuss this. We also will poll all of our members by mail and then try to make an educated vote on this as a council. Also, I will attend the meeting on the 24th and ask them for more time. We just feel rushed and don't want to make an uninformed decision on this."

Gonzales added, "It only seems fair to ask for more time. The Mission Beach Town Council had six months to prepare, and we just have six days. We would not have brought this issue up if it had not been for the Mission Beach Town Council. It was not a concern for us. We had not had any complaints from our citizens. We had already decided as a council that our focus would be on water issues. Also, I told the town council that if we were to poll those who showed up at the meeting and had an interest in this, a majority was against the ban. Personally, I feel that there are already laws on the books for the drunk and disorderly. I also feel that our beach police force works well with our community, and they do a good job of stopping trouble. We shouldn't try to constantly push an ordinance on the community. We have a sense of community here, and we police ourselves in the sense that our residents know their neighbors; they tell folks on the beach to mellow out. Then you have Mission Beach advertising its beach for parties. Their situation is not our situation. If we wanted to live by Mission Beach standards then we would live there. We have our own standards. But every time we cry out, they say, 'Oh, it's just those crazies in OB.' What I've learned is that the political machine can only attack one issue at a time. You have to prioritize. And we had chosen water quality as our issue, and now the alcohol ban is creeping in on us."

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