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Ordinance offers no solutions

Staff Editorial | Friday, September 14, 2007

The members of the South Bend Common Council should finally make a statement Monday night against a major black mark on the community by voting down the proposed party permit ordinance.

The ordinance, vigorously supported by Council Member Al “Buddy” Kirsits, has two forms. The Council’s proposal is the most radical; people living in houses with two or more unrelated people would have to apply for a permit 10 days in advance to host 25 people and serve alcohol.

Mayor Stephen Luecke’s version is somewhat reasonable; those same people would have to notify the police of their intention to host such a gathering 24 hours before it would begin.

The two proposals are of differing mentalities but equal uselessness.

Police have the ability to enforce on-the-books disorderly house and noise ordinances without either addition. And a spokesman for the South Bend Police Department has questioned the enforceability of a new ordinance.

Kirsits argued, with dubious empirical evidence and unconvincing statistics, that the ordinance would help reduce the number of alcohol-related hospital visits by students. Kirsits’ logic appears to be that the party application requirement would limit the number of student drinkers. Ironically, all it would do is move them and their spending dollars to unincorporated St. Joseph County and Mishawaka. And if they did get sick, they would still end up in one of South Bend’s two hospitals.

Still, there are far more important reasons than that to vote down the ordinance.

Diverting resources from the most important task – fighting violent crime – of a unit stretched thin and reportedly low on morale is inane. Council members in support of the ordinance, like Kirsits, are using the non-voting, easy-target students as a way to deflect questions from residents about the biggest problems in South Bend.

Like the series of bank robberies.

And the slew of shootings in recent weeks.

And the rampant drug use in multiple parts of the City.

The list goes on. All this ordinance would do is shield Council members from attacks on their failure to guide the city in the right direction.

Passing the ordinance will only widen the communication and cooperation gaps between students and South Bend – a gap that should not exist in the first place. City leaders should not think that their deliberate and politically motivated targeting of Notre Dame students will go unnoticed. Passing the ordinance would be tantamount to encouraging young men and women with disposable income and bright futures to spend less time and money in South Bend.

That is not the way to pave a fruitful future for the area.