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Partnership for Alcohol Safety needs to accept drinking to make it safer

BY REBECCA ABELLERA | APRIL 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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A year before the 21-ordinance took effect, Iowa City's Partnership for Alcohol Safety was created with the goal of building a safer alcohol environment in Iowa City.

Although the group's intentions are good, the Partnership should either disband or re-evaluate its vague goals. There is little to no proof that the group has had an effect on the community.

In its mission statement, it says, "The Partnership for Alcohol Safety exists to identify and advocate for strategies that reduce high-risk drinking and promote a vibrant downtown" — which is elusive enough to allow it to make small strides and still give the appearance that it is satisfying its vague goal.

One statistic touted by the group states that there has been a 10 percent decrease in public-intoxication arrests by Iowa City and University of Iowa police. This decrease could be caused by many things other than the creation of the Partnership, such as a less-populated downtown or a focus for police to be downtown, leaving the rest of Iowa City less patrolled.

There is not less drinking, there are just fewer arrests because the police are focused on only one area, while more and more of the population shuffles toward residential areas.

"If you go to downtown before 10 p.m., you see these bars packed to the brim, but as soon as 10 comes around, they just empty out into the neighborhoods,"said Matt Pfaltzgraf, the leader of a previous group that opposed the 21-ordinance.

That more officers are patrolling the downtown area looking for alcohol-related offenses would also explain the decrease in public-intoxication arrests considering there are more people out in residential areas drinking instead of downtown. If more police are sent downtown, while a large population of drinkers are filtering into residential areas, there would be fewer officers to patrol those areas.

Drinking is still prevalent but has transferred from a safer and more easily regulated downtown to houses throughout the city.

If the Partnership re-evaluates its goals, it has the potential to actually make a difference in Iowa City.

Despite the vague mission statement, the group has made an effort to make subgroups with better defined goals — groups such as Diversified Downtown Committee, Legislative Policy Solutions Committee, Neighborhood Issues Committee, and the Communications, Membership, Structure Committee. However, they failed to include a key group of people involved in these issues: students.

The Partnership has overlooked the power of the students — students so determined to have a good time that they managed to increase the university's infamous party-school ranking to the No. 4 spot, despite the 21-ordinance.

If the Partnership were to get the students on its side, it would substantially increase its likelihood of being successful. To do this, the group would need to become appealing to students by stressing a safe environment for alcohol, not the slow elimination of drinking altogether.

Maybe it's time for the Partnership to re-evaluate its goals. It should consider researching the true cause of the statistics it studies and embracing the fact that drinking will go on no matter what. Then we can all find a way to truly make the environment safer.


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