Enforce current laws

Here’s a novel idea: Do your job.

Every once in a while, the Reno Gazette-Journal still takes the lead in community dialogue. The front page story on Nov. 7, “Downtown bars could be fined for police calls,” was just such a time.

From the RG-J story: “Given that seven bars are responsible for 45 percent of the 1,401 police calls to bars or nearby areas as of Oct. 27, City Councilmen Pierre Hascheff and Dave Aiazzi said they favor fining bars with excessive police calls as the solution. The approach would be similar to a current policy of fining people who have excessive false fire alarm calls, Hascheff said.

“‘After so many calls, you get billed for a certain number,’ Aiazzi said. ‘That’s how we should punish these people.’”

That’s it in a nutshell. Members of the Reno City Council believe citizens should be punished for taking advantage of their rights as citizens.

First off, nobody appears to be claiming that the calls made from bars are “false calls.” That implies that the calls are for legitimate purposes, like the protection of people. To punish the bars would suggest that it’s the bars who are being served by responding police. It’s not. It’s the citizens the police come to either arrest or protect—and those citizens presumably pay their taxes and have a right to safety. They certainly have a right to be in public places regardless of the purpose of those businesses.

And besides, there are already laws in place to address the issues of serving already intoxicated patrons, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and assault. Bar owners who pad profits by understaffing private security are lawsuits waiting to happen—particularly when the bar owners, bouncers and bartenders are as intoxicated as their patrons.

For more than 20 years, the Reno City Council has worked tirelessly to redevelop downtown Reno as the casinos one by one closed their doors. “Bring more locals downtown,” has been the rallying cry for as long as most of us can remember. During the real estate boom, when the “real” value of those closed casinos skyrocketed based on the numbers of people who could be installed, the battle call trumpeted by the Reno City Council was “move more locals downtown.” And now, the downtown area is vibrant at all hours of the day. That’s what we wanted, right?

That’s what we thought until we saw how city officials treated places like the Green Room when, in conducting its legitimate business, it came up against the wishes of the newly imported and installed residents of the old Comstock Casino. And now we hear that Police Chief Michael Poehlman wants some drinking establishments to close voluntarily from 4 to 6 a.m.? Welcome to Nevada. Many of us moved here specifically because of the 24-hour lifestyle.

Downtown Reno has much greater problems than a few drunks wandering between bars in the latest hours of the night. People who have not taken a recent nighttime walk on Virginia Street would be aghast at the illegal drug activity from in-town-for-the-weekend freelance pharmacists.

The Reno City Council must lie in the bed it helped to make and come up with a plan that addresses the safety of Reno’s citizens, the needs of downtown businesses and the needs of police. And fining people for using the services for which they already pay taxes is not it.