ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
After hearing “a vast number of inquiries and concerns,” the Hillsboro City Council will not pursue an ordinance to exempt additional public properties from the statewide ban on alcohol consumption, City Administrator Steven Garrett said Monday.
“Due to the request of a majority of the council members, discussion of a proposed ordinance that would allow beer drinking is off the agenda indefinitely,” he said. “Due to the response of the community, I would say ‘indefinitely’ means ‘for the foreseeable future.'”
At its Sept. 23 meeting, the council authorized the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would allow the consumption of alcohol at the Sports Complex, Scout House and county fairgrounds.
Council members felt allowing the consumption of alcohol would make Hillsboro a more attractive host city for men’s slow-pitch tournaments and other events that could raise revenue for the city’s recreation program and other endeavors.
Garrett said newspaper reports of that meeting generated considerable public response-all of it negative.
“I had a lot of calls, some letters, some notes, people calling me aside,” Garrett said. “Every form of communication outside of smoke signals and telegraph was employed-which is good because we are a representative government and we represent these people. This is what they’re suppose to let us know.
“I can’t say it will never be discussed again,” Garrett said. “It may need to be discussed again at some time, but that time is not now.”
Garrett said the tone of the feedback was civil, by in large.
“My experience, so far, has been positive,” he said. “People simply stated their opinion. I’ve heard some second-hand reports of some ugly talk going on out there, but I’m not aware of any personally.
“I think the community has done the right thing and done it responsibly.”
At the same time, Garrett said he did learn some eye-opening things about local citizens’ knowledge of city government.
“An interesting thing that came to my attention was that the community as a whole was ill-prepared to respond to this,” he said.
“A lot of people who called were able only to identify the council members who were quoted in the newspaper,” Garrett said. “They weren’t sure who their council members were.
“That’s kind of a panic button for me because the reason I work in city government is because you’re working for your friends and neighbors,” he added. “If we don’t know who our friends and neighbors on the city council are, we’re out of touch.”
Garrett said he’d like to see citizens pay more attention to how local government works.
“Some folks even suggested this topic be put to a vote of the people,” he said. “I would suggest that’s not the form of government we have. The form of representative government we have is that they had a chance to vote at city-council election time.
“It’s a fact borne out each election cycle, but the lower the level of government, the smaller the voter turnout. Local government, which affects us the most, has the least amount of turnout.
“It’s important to know who our council people are,” Garrett said. “I’m going to try to find a way that we can communicate a little bit better (with citizens) than letting folks know through the newspaper that we had a meeting.
“I’m not sure what that’s going to look like, but I think it’s something that needs to happen because government thrives off of the participation of those governed, and we need to encourage that.”
Garrett said if the drinking ordinance ever comes back up for discussion, the public will be notified in advance.