Monday, December 15, 2008

In Defense of Jim Graham...

While we like to keep things nice and cordial here on Connetiquette Ave, I have to disagree with Tim's post about Councilmember Graham. First off - I totally agree that the drinking age is absurd, particularly the strict manner in which it is enforced. DC is particularly strict about enforcing drinking regulations (maybe because with 90+ law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions in the metro area, it's hard for MPD to find anything better to do. Oh wait, there's this. And this.).

While I (of course) believe it is important to enforce the law as written and that public safety is and should be a priority. That being said, we simply have bigger fish to fry. Even with these stringent laws underaged people are going to drink. We've tried the whole MADD experiment now for pushing 30 years. It didn't stop underage drinking, it just pushed the issue to even more dangerous clandestine binge-drinking, particularly on college campuses. In a sick way these types of laws are leading to a much greater risk for underage people.

Some would argue: fine, get rid of the laws. Well, here's hoping that somedays we do. But with the current federal regulation that removes the transportation funding for any state/territory that changes the drinking age, that really isn't a possibility. Not to mention there's that whole (unjust) Congressional review thing for DC laws. So what's a councilman to do? He makes what changes he can.

Spending time, money, and energy forcing this into a larger issue by having unnecessarily high penalties for what amounts to a small infraction is simply not worth it. I agree that simply waiving the first infraction while retaining the eventual penalty doesn't solve the issue, but to me it's a step in the right direction -- getting rid of these absurd requirements in the first place.

1 comment:

Tim S said...


I am confused by your post. There is no additional time, money, or energy put into enforcing the current law than would be the warning system. Although I'd hope that if we are only going to issue warnings - we would step up enforcement and be handing them out much more frequently.

Regardless of the drinking age ... establishments should be enforcing the law. Just as every other citizen is expected to uphold the law - there are plenty of places that kids can drink underage that aren't bars and restaurants. I don't see why we should be encouraging business owners to relax their standards.

Suspending your license for two days sends a very strong and public message - which I think is necessary. Much like many states have taken to putting cars from DWI crashes and pictures of those involved - on the sides of highways . Impact. We need a large impact to remind people not to break the law.

And I think unlike most laws - this one actually punishes the right person. The underage kid isn't getting screwed, its the idiot who was too stupid to look at his ID.