Keep Janesville parks alcohol-free

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Beth Wheelock Tallon
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This blog entry is written by Sarah Johnson, project coordinator for Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change.

Writing a blog about permitting alcohol in parks, one might focus on monitoring concerns, drunk driving, littering, or drunk adults’ obnoxious behaviors.

I’m not.

What I would like to do is tell a story about a boy growing up here in Janesville:

As his mother drives him to school they stop at the liquor store (which opens at 6am) to buy a bottle of wine to serve with dinner.
On the weekend the family goes to a Janesville Jets game where this boy sees adults enjoying the hockey game… while drinking beer.
His dad plays on a softball team at Dawson Field where this child watches the game and the adults having a great time… and drinking alcohol.
I don’t have space to list all of the television ads, billboards, store signs, movies, TV shows, and music this child sees and hears on a daily basis glorifying alcohol.

What I do want to point out is how ‘normal’ alcohol is to this child; it is a part of birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and family reunions.

So, with this perception he will join 20% of his peers and start drinking alcohol before the age of 13. As a senior in high school he will be among the 45% who have drank in the last 30 days and the over 30% who during the last month have binge drank (having 5+ drinks in a couple of hours). All this time, his brain is developing and growing – which it will continue to do until his mid-20s. The alcohol he is consuming is damaging this developing brain, much like a virus infecting a computer. Fast forward time and we find this young man part of the latest report by the UW that lists Wisconsin as leading the nation in frequent, excessive, heavy drinking. (Let’s just hope he doesn’t join the daily list in the Gazette of drunk driving offenders.)

This is not something that can be caused or fixed with one city ordinance. However, laws and regulations that affect the community as a whole are the most successful prevention tools because they help change the social norms. If, for $3,000 of projected revenue, the city allows alcohol in our parks they contribute to the culture that normalizes alcohol.

City Council Members: Please don’t make the parks be another place for our youth to see this display of our alcohol culture. For the benefit of our youth: Keep our city parks alcohol free.

Last updated: 9:24 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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