City Hall Alcohol Paranoia

To write a blog about City Hall’s proposal of allowing consumption of alcohol in parks was low on my priority list because the other pressing topics of gigantic proportions that affect most citizens in this town. But when Chris Nelson wrote in his Herald column that the details of the plan included the way and attitude of how a drink should be consumed, there ought to be some sober assessment of the deal.

The paranoia that some people have when it comes to drinking an alcoholic beverage in public is not new. When then Mayor Ralph Klein suggested to bring Calgary out of the dark ages by relaxing the bar and restaurant rules, many letters in the Heralds were published predicting debauchery and lawlessness in the streets. We could expect drunks and behaviours that would pale in comparison with those of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, nothing of the kind happened and the temporary rules implemented for the 1988 Olympics were there to stay.

Now, more than 30 years later, there is a déjà vu on this topic and City Hall apparently believes that just a nod to allow opening a beer in a park is not enough. Typical to its frantic micromanagement attitude, councillors cannot resist to delve into the nitty gritty of the subject. To hedge any risks, the proposal is temporary, people must be seated at picnic tables when taking a swig from the can and must make reservations for those tables before hand. More pathetic amendments to a simple proposal are hard to imagine.

But let us just stick with practical implications. What does it take in terms of taxpayer funding to implement a (red tape) system in which people have to reserve a picnic table? How are people to be informed about the regulations? Right, signage! Every park will have their entrance decorated with additional signs as to what is required to open a beer. Perhaps these signs need to be posted at picnic tables as well, so that those who reserved them can kick other users off their spot. Please do not underestimate the cost of placing a sign. Aside from installation, one need to have technicians coming out to ensure no disturbance of utilities below the ground surface. A hole has to be dug, cement prepared, so the total installation cost of one sign pole runs well into the thousands of dollars.

Now the interesting question: what about reinforcement? Will uniformed By-Law officers walk up to a family playing at horseshoes and write up dad for holding a beer? Or demanding to see a copy of the permit ensuring that the table was indeed reserved? Perhaps that is a non-issue. Based on our observations of by-law officers overseeing Nose Hill, the chance of spotting a By-Law officer patrolling is very slim.

Our experience of walking our dogs for over 20 years in that park is that they stay within their cars in the parking lot and we have seen them not one, single time make the rounds of the area. That is perfectly fine, by the way, as nobody is keen on such governmental interference. But it goes to show that City Hall has not properly thought this through (as they seldom do) and that the proposed regulation will again require taxpayers funds for something that is hardly worth mentioning.