In early October, the Riverton City Council began discussing publicly the idea of the implementing a “habitually intoxicated person” ordinance, which would limit access to alcohol to those who have been charged with multiple alcohol-related crimes or arrests.
The language defining, “habitual intoxication” was presented as a person who had been convicted of six or more alcohol-related offenses through Riverton Municipal Court. A list would be distributed from the Riverton Police Department with the names of individuals that met that criteria to everyone who holds a liquor license. Businesses that knowingly served someone on that list, would face a possible fine.
The idea was discussed first in October, a second reading was presented in November, and in late November the ACLU became involved with the process.
Over that time, Riverton residents disagreed on the issue across social media platforms and in public platforms. Many argued it could help alcoholism issues locally, while others were primarily concerned with how it would affect the businesses and their employees.
During the third and final reading of the proposed ordinance Tuesday at the Riverton City Council meeting, half of the council members spoke about the issue.
Ward 3 council member Mike Bailey told those in attendance that he was against the ordinance, “I think this ordinance shifts the burden of solving this problem to the business owners and their employees and does not focus the issue to the people causing the problem.” Bailey said he’d received more phone calls about this issue than almost any other. “I think we need to keep looking for better solutions,” he said.
Ward 2 council member Lance Goede disagreed with Bailey, “we have attempted for years to make people responsible for violating public intoxication laws. We need to broaden the scope, we need to be a part of the solution. If we only keep asking the people who have a problem, the intoxicated people that are struggling, the only solution is to keep jailing them. Quite honestly, that’s not working.” Goede said the ordinance would not be a “magic bullet” to fight alcoholism, but that it would be a starting point. He also noted that he thought it would provide as a good opportunity to business owners to “have an out” when it comes to overserving intoxicated citizens.
Ward 3 Councilman Tim Hancock also voiced his concern for the business owners, “This is not something going to be solved without more effort. I’ve thought a lot about this, the issue that I’m having is, yes – everybody needs to try to come together to figure out what to do. But, coming at them with the full force of the government is a bit hard to swallow for me.” He continued by saying that parts of the ordinance are a “good idea,” but that it could result in an “enforcement nightmare” for local authorities. He stressed that the Riverton Police Department was already very busy.
After about 15 minutes of discussion, each council member and the mayor voted individually on the issue.
For the ordinance: Lance Goede, Kyle Larsen
Against the ordinance: Tim Hancock, Mike Bailey, Rebecca Schatza, Mayor Lars Baker
*Ward I councilman Sean Peterson was not present for the vote