A Nuisance You Can’t Get Rid Of?
Remember in the fall when everyone was really worked up about the proposed Nuisance Ordinance? For those of you who don’t remember, this piece of legislation proposed to hold party hosts responsible for actions that their guests commit, even after they’ve left the party. That piece of legislation is back before the borough council, and the division and controversy is starting up again.
According to the borough website,
The Nuisance Gathering Ordinance is aimed at reducing the negative impacts that result from parties that become so large or disorderly that the gathering becomes a nuisance. In such circumstances, the gathering host could be held responsible for allowing the party or gathering to become a nuisance and cited under the ordinance.
How big a party? How far away would the acts have to occur? These are questions that are before the council right now. At the last meeting, council members were asked to decide how far away from the party the host should be held responsible. The four offenses under the bill are underage drinking, fighting, public urination, and vandalism. The various distances are the adjacent street from the party, two adjacent buildings from the party, and 100 feet from the party.
Reaction to the modified version of the ordinance has been mixed. Last Wednesday, the Collegian Board of Opinion published an article declaring “Altered proposal still unfair”. The Council has shown ambivalence so far. While members Peter Morris and Tom Daubert have been strongly opposed to the ordinance, other members seem to think it’s a step in the right direction. Theresa Lafer, while being in favor of the ordinance, doesn’t think it will be effective alone, saying that “People need to find some other ways to enjoy themselves — ones they might actually remember come Monday morning”. The general consensus, though, even from Morris, is that the ordinance will pass within the next year.
Putting aside the specifics of the Nuisance Ordinance, the idea that’s at the core of this legislation is holding one person responsible for another person’s actions. I find it unreasonable to make party hosts responsible for their guest’s actions the rest of the night. People go to parties, drink, and then leave. Once they walk out that door, should a host be responsible for any behavior that follows? Yes, the host may have provided alcohol, but hosts don’t force their guests to drink to the point of fighting, vandalism, or public urination.
The problem I see with the ordinance is that hosts really can’t do anything about their guests’ behavior. How do you stop someone from peeing in a bush after they leave a party? At least that’s what I think. What do you think, Staters?