La Mesa Police Lieutenant Carlos Medero says consumption of alcohol in public places is a major distraction for the city's police force. The Lieutenant points to a spike in the number of complaints of drinking in public from last year to this year. In a six-month period from last year, says Medero, the city's police force received 178 complaints for public drinking. During the same time this year, the police department received 272 complaints.
It's for those reasons that Medero and city staff were in support of an ordinance to extend the ban on drinking from parks, churches, and schools, adopted back in 1981, to include streets, alleys, and sidewalks.
During the Tuesday, October 27, La Mesa city council meeting, Lieutenant Medero testified before the mayor and city councilmembers about the need for the council to adopt the ordinance.
"We see our officers using this ordinance as a tool used and enforced in the spirit of the law to address the quality of life issues that are being impacted by drinking in public," said Medero.
For the city council, it didn't seem to take much convincing. Councilmember Ruth Sterling: "It's a consistent problem. I don't think this council realized the open container was such a problem."
Councilmember Ernest Ewin commented on the need for the ban while asking for assurances from Lieutenant Medero that officers won't use the ordinance to generate extra revenue, but instead will use it to enhance public safety.
And while the city council appeared convinced from the outset, a few residents spoke in opposition to the ordinance during public comment, calling the law unnecessary.
"I would have thought, or should I say, I would have hoped that the repeal of Prohibition would have settled this once and for all," said resident Craig Maxwell during public comment. "Evidently it did not. Before this council imposes any further restriction on the consumption of alcohol in public places, or before you impose any new fees or penalties, you might want to consider the impression this is likely to make on La Mesa citizens."
Another concern from those in opposition to the ordinance was that the law could deter companies and private citizens from organizing large events at the city's parks and public spaces in fear of police interaction, thus taking money away from the city's beleaguered general fund.
But Mayor Art Madrid responded by saying citizens are allowed to submit an application to the police department at a cost of $150 for a permit, which would allow for alcohol consumption at organized events.
Shortly after the public comment portion of the meeting concluded, the city council voted unanimously, 5 to 0, in favor of banning booze from La Mesa's public places.