The city of Twin Falls has been working on its liquor laws. My opinions on the liquor laws are not the primary focus of this post, but they will help in my expression of why and how to engage in public discussion.
For several weeks notice has been given by city council to attend the public hearing concerning liquor laws in the city at businesses where liquor is consumed on the property. Attending and speaking at the meeting last night has prompted me to jot down some observations and suggest some ideas for consideration to anyone attending and planning to speak in public meetings.
Twin Falls has adjusted liquor laws a few times in the past 8 years to attempt to bring the city into parity with other cities in the state. Obviously, the city law has to be within the bounds of state and federal laws and not permitted to go beyond. Until as recent as 2006, Twin Falls had limitations on liquor (by the drink) sales on Sundays. (By definition, liquor and alcohol are viewed differently by code and law. And these laws are dealing only with establishments that allow drinking liquor on the premises; ie: restaurants and bars.)
The most recent discussion has been upon the time that businesses are required to stop serving (selling) liquor by the drink. In Twin Falls, that time is 1:00 am. State law is 2:00 am. In addition to this issue, Twin Falls also has limits on certain days. State law forbids the sale of liquor (by the drink) on Christmas Day. Twin Falls law includes, Thanksgiving Day, Election Day, and Memorial Day.
The city council has been discussing changes to this for several weeks.
Last night it was decided to present both the closing time restrictions and special day restrictions as two different discussions. I think this is a good idea. The city Council will work more on this in the coming weeks. I hope I won’t be the only one publicly speaking against this. But if I am, I’ll be sure to remember these tips on speaking at public meetings…
- Remember, not everyone holds your same values and opinions. When addressing issues that involve the sale and consumption of alcohol you may likely be in the overwhelming minority.
- Respect that those on the other side of an issue are attempting to conduct business within the bounds of the law. They are at that point, “law abiding” fellow citizens.
- Attempt to write your talking points down. At most public hearings you will have a time limit. Usually 2 – 5 minutes; depending on the subject and number of people expected to speak. If you don’t stay on point, your time will be up before you are finished and in danger of saying a lot of words without communicating your point. Don’t be fooled, 2 minutes at a public hearing is a very difficult task.
- Keep your cool, you will most likely not be given a second moment to defend disparaging comments made after your time limit.
- Take a few deep breaths as you walk to the mic to speak. I speak often, and I still have to remind myself to breath.
- If you are in the minority, prepare for strange pokes and unusual comments by the majority that will feel like a dig against you to strengthen their point. This is normal, I think it may even be fair play, within reason.
- Refuse to take opposition personally. It’s very hard. Resist being a thin-skinned person. Thin-skinned people say foolish and irrational things that help make the point for the opposing side. Thin-skinned doesn’t mean emotionless.
- Remember you are speaking at a public meeting. Public meetings are public, your words are free to be recorded and used for or against you. Prepare yourself, you may be quoted in local news outlets without your knowledge. (Times-News) “Paul Thompson, who is pastor at Eastside Baptist Church, testified against both changes, asking how allowing for longer bar hours would make Twin Falls a better place. “Please don’t change the laws that have implications and considerations to public safety or the uniqueness of special holidays,” he said.”
My personal thoughts on the issue:
Is any community a better community because it allows more hours to publicly consume intoxicating substances? Are families in Twin Falls better off because the bar is open on for one more hour. Is work place productivity better because employees have more time at a bar? Are tourist from out of town better served by the city because it allows the sale of intoxicating beverages until 2 am? What do we say about the most unique holiday on our calendar when laws governing it are called antiquated?
Those promoting this change appear to be making the argument from two primary positions:
- financial – I get, and can even respect that a bar is in business to make money, and any business that wants to increase its profit margin will attempt to do so. To the credit of the owners of the liquor licenses, they are attempting to do so “lawfully.” (That does not win my support for their cause, it simply acknowledges that I get it and can respect their law-abiding ways.)
- perception – This one doesn’t work at all for me. These are grown adults arguing for something with the logic of an adolescent.
- “Everyone else is doing it”; just doesn’t work. First of all, everyone else is not doing it. Second, even if many or most are doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
- “These are antiquated laws”; to call something antiquated may be fair in some cases. But to call something antiquated because it helps you look progressive and modern in the eyes of some is foolish and reckless. Public safety is anything but antiquated. If the discussion is about steam-powered cars verses petroleum-powered cars it may be fair to call one antiquated. If the discussion is about an outhouse verses indoor plumbing and regulations on how the city will handle modern advances, then antiquated is right and new laws and regulations are required. To say that a limit on the sale of liquor-by-the-drink laws on Thanksgiving is an antiquated law is to speak with no regard in respect to the reason for the holiday to begin with. What other holiday in the nation gets a public proclamation from the president to alter normal activity, gather with family and in places of worship? If gathering with my family and altering my normal activity to humble myself before my God is antiquated then color me antiquated.