ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A proposed ban on intoxication in public places has failed in the Alaska Gold Rush town of Nome, which has long grappled with hard drinking.
Officials say the ordinance law fell short of the necessary City Council votes Monday to proceed to a later, second vote.
The measure would have prohibited intoxication in public rights of way, including the city’s Front Street, where drinkers can be seen staggering along or passed out near tourist shops.
The measure included no penalty for violators, but City Manager Tom Moran has said it could be amended to add a fine if it passed. Moran was directed by the council to introduce the measure in an attempt “to do something.”
The measure prompted a tepid response from officials and mostly opposition from locals who said it would unfairly target people struggling with alcoholism while failing to address underlying causes.
“I just didn’t think it would accomplish what people are hoping to accomplish,” City Council member Mark Johnson, who opposed the measure, said Tuesday.
Council member Tom Sparks said he had concerns the measure was too broad and could end up targeting people simply walking home from a bar because they didn’t want to drive while intoxicated. But he saw its potential as a law enforcement tool and voted to take it to a second, later reading to have additional public debate.
“We just have an issue with alcohol,” Sparks said. “It’s been going on for a long time and I think the Council is a little bit frustrated because we haven’t been able to find very good solutions to it.”
Rhonda Schneider, executive director of the Nome Community Center, testified against the measure, saying it would do nothing to improve the quality of anyone’s life. She’s among locals advocating for various remedies that include additional rehabilitation services.
Schneider also supports a tax on alcohol, an idea that some officials have said would place an additional financial burden on people already facing other taxes.
“We know that gas prices go up and people still buy gas,” she said. “And alcohol prices go up and people still buy alcohol. But youth will particularly be affected, and if we do nothing more than curb the consumption among youth, we’ve already taken a giant step forward.”
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