I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Open Containers of Alcohol on Quietwater Beach Part III--Nobody is Happy with the Ordinance Revision

Our newly enacted, amended open-container ordinance for Quietwater Beach  is coming back to the BCC for additional modification next week.

Last month, the board nearly voted to continue the ban on open containers on the boardwalk for an additional two years--despite presentation of data that showed many categories of crime had increased since the ban was enacted.

When it became apparent a two year continuation would have failed by a 3-2 margin, the board made a fumbling, sloppy attempt at an on-the-fly compromise position:  Alcohol would once again be permitted on the boardwalk, but only from 10PM to 6:00AM.  I didn't support this for numerous reasons which I have expressed to the media, on this blog, and also at the meeting.  The compromise passed 4-1 with me voting NO.

...the very next day we started hearing about the unintended consequences of what we had done from our attorney and from the Sheriff's office;  we had crafted the ordinance such that it was vague and ambiguous about the legality of open containers on sidewalks and parking lots beach-wide.  Now we had to go fix our newly enacted rule because we violated one of the tenets of good governance by making things worse, not better, with our actions.

This is why it is dangerous to try to legislate on the dais, on the fly.  The go-cart one tries to assemble while travelling down the hill often crashes, just like rules rushed through fail.  Here's why:

1.  It is an undisputed, known fact of reality that the ban did not reduce, but rather exacerbated the most dangerous criminal offenses like DUIs and Battery on LEO's, so the ordinance should have  sunsetted and a redoubled effort at enforcement should have been made specifically targeting transgressors rather than all of us.

2.  When the amended motion was made, I knew it was fatally flawed because there is a tremendous difference between day drinkers and night time hooligan partiers;  the open container hours on the boardwalk should have been during the day from, say, 10:00AM to 6:00PM--with a prohibition if absolutely necessary taking place from 6:00PM to 10:00AM.  I (and many others) feel the ordinance got these hours backwards because the Geico Owl and everybody else that knows

 anything about the bar business knows that the hooligans and trouble makers, in most instances, come around at night-- and this badly flawed attempt at a compromise ordinance will make hooliganism more of a problem at night than it has been!

So now we are coming back around to "fix" what we tried to fix last month.  And now word has come back from the Sheriff's office that our proposed amended rule does not sit well with their office.  They don't support the fix.  From a recent email from the sheriff's office to our attorney asking about our fix:

 "not in favor of a modified ordinance. If they [BCC] are insistent on proceeding even though they didn't follow their last ordinance requiring it to be sunset or continued nor did they review quality of life data. I'd make the following suggestions to mitigate the damage. For ease of understanding I think it'd be easier to just say the boardwalk will be treated the same as the sandy areas of the beach between the hours of x and y. It also doesn't make sense to allow alcohol on the beach during the hours we have the most troubles [EMPHASIS ADDED]. At the very least it should end at [sic  3:00AM] 2:30 which is the same time the bars have to close. Otherwise, after the clubs close, I go out to my car, grab my cooler, and head up on the boardwalk to keep the party going. I still feel we are going to end up with a worse situation than we originally had and the modification is a poor decision."
So to recap this whole episode I'll say this.  I don't support the ban, the rule should have sunsetted just as intended.  The board should have thoughtfully considered the data, all the data, instead of rejecting the portions that did not suit some particular ideologies and pre-conceived notions  (If pharmaceutical drugs were approved in this fashion, the drugs would be worse than the diseases in many cases!).  T
he board should have work-shopped this and listened to all voices and come back with a better ordinance that respects the rights of citizens, focuses on enforcement, and punishes criminals not responsible beachgoers.  I won't support an ill-conceived, rushed ordinance revision done for political expediency that does not use data to drive the language....


Anonymous said...

Finally a voice of reason. When the BOCC passes the amended ordinance I just shook my head in disbelief. Anyone with any sense knows the trouble on the boardwalk was usually late at night. Sometimes I wonder if Grover Robinson ever visits that part of his district.
Now let's see how that second traffic light on Via De Luna works out.

Keith Howell
Pensacola FL

Jeff Bergosh said...

Thank you Keith. I looked at the data and combined it with what I know to be true about what time the troublemakers typically come out. When the revision included allowing open containers at night but banning them during the day---I knew this was backwards and flawed--which is part of the reason I voted against it. But the biggest reason I voted against it is this: it is yet another fumbling attempt by government to punish a few transgressors by limiting the freedoms of everyone. It is jelly donut discipline. Chicago is trying this with gun control with some of the strictest "ordinances" banning guns--yet they have more mayhem, shootings, and murders by gun than anywhere eles in the country and everyone knows how that's turning out even though none of it is ever reported on the national news outlets... I just don't understand why we can't go back to the way it was, allow responsible adults to enjoy beverages, and when the thugs and punks act up, photograph them and ban them from the boardwalk for life or arrest them--depending upon the severity of what they've done. Okaloosa County, Destin, allow open containers on their specialty center, the South Harbor Festive Marketplace. How come they can manage that through enforcement of the rules, yet we cannot manage that here at our specialty center the Quietwater Beach Boardwalk? Nope, our answer is to ban it for everyone. I'm not going along with that.....