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Gary Burman: Ordinance needed

— I am appalled that the City Council didn’t pass the social host ordinance. It is true that it’s not going to solve the problem of underage drinking, but it is a great first step. Contrary to Cari Hermacinski’s statements that no data are available that show a social host ordinance is effective and that data are available that show an ordinance can even cause greater harm (e.g. incidence of drunken driving), a cursory search on the Internet last night turned up a study that discusses the effectiveness of social host ordinances and that they do work. I could not find the research that Hermacinski referenced.

From the Journal for the Study of Alcohol: Reducing harmful alcohol-related behaviors: effective regulatory methods (Center for Health Policy, Law and Management, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina):

“Conclusions: Although several criminal and administrative regulations were also effective in reducing heavy episodic drinking and drunk driving, the imposition of tort liability (e.g. social host liability) represents a useful addition to the arsenal of alcohol-control policies.”



I am not a lawyer or researcher, but I was able to turn this up quickly because it was referenced by Santa Clara County staff in its recommendation of approval of a social host ordinance.

I found the points made by the two professionals from CMC to be very convincing: We need to change social norms in order to change the behavior. As one of two from CMC said, people didn’t want to start wearing seat belts when those laws first were passed, but now we accept wearing seat belts as a normal part of being in a car. It should not be the norm that high school students (and younger kids) use drugs and alcohol regularly.



We have to start somewhere. Alcoholism and alcoholic-related behavior have become the norm. A professional from the VNA provided new data at the council meeting, stating that Routt County is now the No. 1 county in the state for underage drinking. It’s laughable that the Steamboat Ski Area can market itself as a “family resort” with a reputation like that hanging over the county.

I would urge families to reconsider raising your children here – it is not a safe place, especially when our own City Council can’t pass what repeatedly was referred to as a “slam-dunk” ordinance.

We have to fight back. Let’s get this back on the docket when Jon Quinn is back in town and get it passed. And let it be only the first action that we take in reclaiming the lives of our children.

Gary Burman

Steamboat Springs


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