Public Health and Safety Committee passes social host ordinance

The measure will now move on to the full City Council for approval.

by James Nord

The Minneapolis City Council is one step closer to squashing the stereotypical raucous college party. The solution comes in the form of a âÄúsocial hostâÄù ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor to host a party attended by underage drinkers. The Public Safety and Health Committee unanimously passed a measure to that effect Wednesday, but it still must be passed by the full council Feb. 12. Before the committee vote, attendees ranging the gamut of agencies and interests addressed the council to provide input. Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, public health officials and concerned Minneapolis residents threw their support behind the ordinance, and Dana Farley, associate program director of Boynton Health Service, extended the University of MinnesotaâÄôs support to the committee. âÄúThe University strongly supports this ordinance, and from the perspective of student affairs offices across the country, alcohol abuse is a No. 1 problem impacting the health and safety of the campus community,âÄù Farley said. âÄúThe social host ordinance will not be a silver bullet that will make this issue go away, but it is an essential step.âÄù Roughly 10 students attended the meeting, including members of the Interfraternity Council and the Minnesota Student Association. Not surprisingly, students raised issues with almost every aspect of the ordinance, including its affect on public safety and the fact that it would place responsibility on hosts and not on partygoers. They also said that it wouldnâÄôt solve the underlying problem: binge drinking. Critics argued that the ordinance could exacerbate the issue by providing a further deterrent to call 911 if an emergency were to arise. They also questioned the efficacy of adding another method of enforcement to the cityâÄôs arsenal. âÄúThere are laws in place right now that could probably solve the same problems,âÄù University sophomore Joel Livingood said. âÄúIf youâÄôre looking to curb underage drinking, they can hand out minors, and if theyâÄôre looking to stop parties, you can hand out loud party [violations] that would do the same justice without putting the implications on the homeowner.âÄù But Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the ordinance would complement existing ordinances by giving police more tools to enforce them. Community representatives and the council also supported the ordinance in order to protect youth from adults who would prey on them and as a measure to curb sexual assault among both college and younger students. âÄúI want to make it clear to the University students that are here âĦ We are not picking on you precisely,âÄù Ward 10 Councilwoman Meg Tuthill, said. âÄúWe are looking at this to be put into effect for the man or woman who is 35 or 38 years old and thinks itâÄôs really cool to get their 15-year-old babysitter drunk.âÄù Despite its uncontested approval, Council President Barbara Johnson and Councilwoman Betsy Hodges, Ward 13, had mixed feelings about passing the ordinance. Johnson specifically said she is concerned about the effect a misdemeanor could have on a college studentâÄôs future. However, Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon said the ordinance could be amended in the future, and there will be a report in a year to evaluate the effectiveness of the measure.