Posts Tagged ‘alcohol policy’

Treating alcoholism in Wisconsin

January 5, 2010

I recently had a correspondence with Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids), the lone opponent of the most recent OWI legislation. A long with his belief that stiff penalties are in many cases unfair and vindictive, which I will explore in a later post (I’m waiting on some more feedback), Schneider called for more effective treatment of alcoholism.

I would support the ignition interlocks for repeat offenders, improving the quality of the drunk driving programs in our technical schools, and other efforts like making alcohol less available.  I attended the drunk driving program with a friend and I can tell you it is a joke.  My friend and the others in the class had to answer questions and fill out forms and literally make stuff up to satisfy the instructor.

Interestingly, the Daily Page just ran a story on a new kind of alcohol treatment philosophy that is gaining ground in the Badger State called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT).

SBIRT gives patients a questionnaire when they check in for an appointment, asking about drug and alcohol use. Professionals like Lightbourn review these responses for red flags that may indicate problems. They also check to see if there is a family history of substance abuse and any medical conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes that might be exacerbated by drug or alcohol use.

Armed with this knowledge, Lightbourn [SBIRT doctor] initiates a discussion with the patient. She asks open-ended questions to help place the patients’ use of substances into one of four categories: low risk, at risk, harmful use and likely dependent.

Advice is given sparingly, and patients are not told what to do. As Lightbourn puts it, “The patient is driving the bus, and the decision is up to them to decide if they would like to make a change in their alcohol and drug use.”

At first glance, the technique strikes me as definitely more appropriate for certain personality types. Most adults don’t like being treated as children, and don’t like to be demeaned by being force-fed therapeutic dogma.

While plenty of people who have combatted alcoholism will likely tell you that they needed an aggressive, radical approach to get on the wagon, there are others, including many people who suffered from more mild alcoholism, that would benefit from a more frank, personalized discussion of their drinking habits. These people often resent being grouped with hardcore drug and alcohol addicts.

Nobody applying for ALRC position

November 20, 2009

It’s almost poetic. Weeks after the student community student newspapers made so much noise about getting a student voting member on the ALRC, only one person has applied for the new position, according to sources in city government.

That one person is Mark Woulf.

Bryon Eagon says potential applicants should get their applications in by the end of next week. Those interested need to fill out this application, which can also be found on the city’s website.


MPD releases position on ALRC vote

November 3, 2009

As the “recommendation” that the mayor appoint a student member to the ALRC goes before a Council vote tonight, here is in an email sent to the mayor and the city council, Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray weighed in on the prospect of adding a student voting member to the ALRC:

“After discussion with Madison Police Department staff to include, but not limited to, Capt. Gloede (ALRC) and Capt. Schauf (Central District), we have concluded that the proposed amendment to Ordinance No. 33.02, which allows for a student voting representative on the ALRC, will not have a direct or indirect impact on public safety. Therefore, the Department’s official position on the proposed ordinance is neutral.”

While I’m sure the MPD regularly submits position statements on issues relevant to their work, I wonder if this statement was requested by council members or the mayor, some of whom wanted to make sure they were doing what was in the interests of public safety – at least according to the police department’s interpretation of it.

It’s hard to see how the police department would have any insight into how a student member would affect bar licenses, unless they assume that the student will vote a certain way, which will lead to more bars etc.


November 2, 2009

UPDATE: Eagon negotiates compromise with mayor. Eagon’s ordinance will no longer require that the citizen appointee be a student. It will add an alder and a citizen to the ALRC with a recommendation to the mayor that the citizen be a student. The mayor plans to appoint a student rep for a three year period. Eagon’s proposal will also keep the non-voting student member to the ALRC, meaning that students will have one voting member and one non-voting member at the table.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz met with Ald. Bryon Eagon and promised to add a student member to the Alcohol License Review Committee regardless of whether Eagon’s proposal to require a student voting member on the committee passes the Council tomorrow.

The ALRC, which is likely to add another alder and another “citizen appointee,” will be voting on whether the citizen appointee must be a student tomorrow. However, Cieslewicz, has stated that he plans to appoint a student whether he is required to or not.

Bryon Eagon told The Sconz that the move was not ideal, but still a victory for students.

Coalition of students strategize to win ALRC vote

October 29, 2009

On Sunday a group of students, including members of the Badger Herald and Daily Cardinal editorial boards, met to discuss strategy to mobilize support for Ald. Bryon Eagon’s proposal to add a student voting member to the ALRC, as well as to win the Council vote on the measure next Tuesday.

Eagon and current ALRC non-voting rep Mark Woulf were at the meeting and gave the other group members advice on how to best influence Council members on the vote. Herald and Cardinal editors came up with a list of important student organizations to be contacted, including WISPIRG, the College Democrats and even Hoofers, an outdoor sports organization.

I was there primarily to observe the meeting, although I do support the proposal – though with not as much vigor, perhaps.

The papers decided to continue pushing the issue, evidenced by the editorials on Monday, with the hopes of motivating students to email or call their alders, but more importantly, to show up for the vote and make an impression on Council members.

Here is a very rough list of predictions on how members of the Council will vote. The projections were made for a variety of reasons, including support or opposition to the proposal in the past, general political philosophy or connections with other members on the Council (e.g. gets along well with Eagon).

In favor: Bidar-Sielaff, Verveer, Eagon, Rummel, King, Soloman, Clear, Maniaci, Rhodes-Conway

Against: Schumacher, Compton, Clausius, Skidmore, Thuy

?: Palm, Cnare, Schmidt, Sanborn, Bruer, Kerr

Another try at banning a legal substance

October 14, 2009

Madison is looking at banning alcohol sales to chronic trouble-makers. To clarify, we’re not talking about some rowdy frat boys – we’re talking about a guys who spend their entire time drunk or in detox. To qualify for the no-booze list a person must have been sent to the hospital six times in the last six months. I started the article hoping for an ACLU position and I got it:

The American Civil Liberties Union protested the list, arguing that denying people legal goods changed their legal and social status. But Green Bay continued the policy, saying it is supported in state law, which bans alcohol distribution to “known habitual drunkards.”

Legally, it would seem necessary for the police to at least charge the detoxees with an offense, such as public intoxication, for the city to be able to put these kinds of sanctions on them. If they are just sent to the emergency room with a belly full of liquor, then the city likely has no more right to restrict their access to booze than it does to ban people with heart disease from eating at McDonald’s Five Guys.
Of course, the clerks can turn down clients independently, however, if the police are collaborating or pressuring them in any way, it would likely be the target of a court challenge.

But why can’t we raise the beer tax?

October 7, 2009

Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) is more than happy to raise the tax on hard liquor by 58 percent, however, she sees the tax as hypocritical coming from the same legislators who have refused to raise the beer tax for four decades.

(Madison) Rep. Terese Berceau (Madison) today said she was “flummoxed” that both the governor and a key Senate committee will consider raising the liquor tax to pay for drunk driving penalty increases — but still refuse to consider raising the beer tax despite wide public support.

“Not only have the powers that be come very late to the table with the notion that the terrible costs of alcohol abuse could find a funding source in a tax actually tied to a substance widely abused in Wisconsin,” Berceau said, “They persist in stonewalling an increase in the alcoholic beverage that is most abused by binge drinkers – beer.”

The problem Berceau is facing is conventional wisdom. At least in Wisconsin it states that beer is fun alcohol, and hard liquor is dangerous alcohol.

Are downtown bars discriminated against?

September 21, 2009

Apparently even the Herald Editorial Board has come out against the Kollege Klub:

Surveillance cameras have one basic function, and that’s to serve as physical evidence in case something goes terribly wrong. Wedding receptions and episodes of “Friends” can be taped over; instances of battery cannot.

My guess is that this editorial was penned by Sean Kittridge.

Some in the community have raised questions about the difference in treatment between downtown and outskirts bars. At the recent meeting of the Downtown Coordinating Committee, ASM rep Erik Paulson asked why the alcohol coordinator was not cracking down harder on Wiggie’s Bar and Grill, which was just recently host to a man who forced someone to strip at gunpoint in the bathroom. According to Paulson, this is not the first of Wiggie’s gun issues. “If this happened in a downtown bar, it’d be long since closed,” he wrote to me in an email.

Herald supports student ALRC member

September 9, 2009

The Badger Herald Editorial Board argued in favor of adding a student rep to the Alcohol License Review Committee. The most important aspect of the editorial.

Before Mr. Eagon’s proposal can be realized, however, there are several details that must be worked out. First, there was substantial debate regarding whether the representative had to be 21. As with any other city committee, any adult should be allowed to serve. Regardless of how much some may wish to pretend otherwise, most college-aged students are aware of and can offer meaningful input on alcohol issues, whether or not they are 21.

This is perhaps the only aspect of the editorial that took any guts to write. The rest was very intuitive for a student newspaper, although the Herald often fails to achieve even that in some instances (the drinking age, tuition). The point could have been supplemented with the logic used by Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, who argued that not only was an underage student possible, but he/she might be preferable considering the unacceptable lack of activities for underagers in the downtown area.

Also guys, if you insist on the courtesy titles, please, be consistent. You switch from Mr. Eagon to Ald. Eagon in one article. Tst, tst, tst.

University Square bar dies in ALRC

September 4, 2009

There is a grocery store coming to University Square.

But not a bar. Or a restaurant. What to call it was exactly the source of the controversy that ended developer Scott Acker’s hopes of a gigantic Badger-themed eatery/watering hole next door to Lucky apartments. Cardinal writer Todd Stevens seems to suggest that the Alcohol License Review Committee rejected the plan because it didn’t believe the bar would be able to provide a non-alcoholic environment for underage customers as well as be a bar.

That may be partially true, but that’s not the story city officials I’ve talked to have been pushing. Ald. Michael Schumacher, an ALRC member who voted against giving Acker a second chance to present a restaurant plan, was very straight forward in explaining his opposition: the project violated the downtown alcohol density plan. He didn’t believe it would be a restaurant and he was convinced that the place would ultimately derive most of its profits from alcohol sales. This matters to Schumacher not only because his German heritage instilled an obligation to follow the law (his words), but because if the place becomes a bar late at night it means hundreds of drunks leaving at 2 AM, which inevitably causes problems for cops trying to keep an eye on bar-time exodus.

Ald. Bridget Maniaci voiced the same concern – does the city want to deal with a bar with a capacity of 900?

So what is the real tragedy of the death of the new bar? Is it the lost investment or the lost opportunities for fun? Proponents of the bar say both. Ald. Bryon Eagon was openly disappointed with the dismissal of the plan by some of his colleagues, and sent me the following:

This was surely and opportunity lost and has brought up the need for discussions about downtown business investments and general alcohol policy, specifically about changes to the density plan so we don’t scare off potential good investments. Speaking of scaring off applicants, I was also disappointed that there were some votes against referring the application, which not only seems to be unprecedented, but sends the wrong message to this and also future applicants and investors.

Ouch. A good, above-the-belt knock at Schumacher. Stevens uses the same arguments – stupid Madison is being anti-business. Granted, his assertion that we have an anti-business reputation isn’t so true – Madison was recently rated one of the best places to find a job. Of course that’s largely due to the public sector…but I digress.

However, business be damned, the sad end to this story is that yet another door to underage entertainment is closed and many of the anti-bar crew aren’t proposing alternatives. Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff seems to be an exception. A supporter of the density plan which restricts the number of bars downtown, Bidar-Sielaff nevertheless is a vocal proponent of expanding social opportunities for 18-20 year old students. When I asked her if the city lacked entertainment for underagers she was blunt: YES! “We need more live music, more movie theaters, more places to dance.” She spoke eloquently about the issue when voting in favor of adding a student voting member to the ALRC the other day (proposed by Eagon). Why not have an underage member of the ALRC, who could push for establishments that have liquor licenses as well as non-alcoholic options?

If Madison city officials make it known that they welcome such places, prospective developers would be eager to put forth plans that integrate drinking and non-drinking better. There are way too many concerts, for instance, that you have to be 21 to get into. It’s unacceptable.