At the last regular meeting, the Bethel City Council discussed an ordinance amending the city’s public decency laws.
The City’s Public Safety and Transportation Commission introduced the ordinance that would tighten up several public decency laws.
“Our Bethel Municipal Code doesn’t have a lot of teeth in it. It’s like my dog. He has very few teeth left and if he bites you, you probably wouldn’t even know it,” Council member Sharon Sigmund said.
The amendment would make it illegal to walk on city streets or ice roads while intoxicated.
“It’s not geared to prohibit the intoxication as much as it’s geared to keep these areas of our community safe. Public streets and roads, ice roads or highways, are very dangerous areas. They have a lot of fast-moving, big vehicles. A lot of foot traffic as well. To have an intoxicated person in those particular areas makes for an exponentially greater risk of harm not only to the person who’s intoxicated, but anyone who’s traveling on those roadways,” Sigmund said.
The amendment would add language against littering and defacing property, shoplifting and selling tobacco to minors.
The ordinance would also prohibit public excretion within the city.
“I can understand out in the tundra or in private somewhere behind some bushes, but no not out in the city itself. This should not be going on,” Sigmund said.
Council member Rick Robb said he supports much of the ordinance, but has a problem with the public intoxication language.
“I can’t support that particular section. I understand people can be a menace, but there’s other ways to handle it than outlawing drunk walking,” He said.
Council member Mary Sattler disagreed.
“We have 75 cabs that run day and night. We have people who are designated drivers. And, quite frankly, in weather conditions like we have right now where it’s 40 below, walking down the road drunk is dangerous drinking,” Sattler said.
Another issue is where the citation money will go. Right now, state statues do outlaw public intoxication and other decency laws, but since the BMC has not been updated to reflect that, the state gets the money from the fines.
“What it (would be) doing is diverting the funds, which is copied verbatim from state law from going to the state and going to the city instead. Same ticket, same workload same everything. But the money is going to the city instead,” said City Attorney Patti Burley.
The city council voted to introduce the ordinance and will discuss it at future meetings.