Teens speak out for alcohol ban
"The longer you delay, the more likely you are to put someone's life at risk," senior Robert Sniffin said.
Sniffin was one of about a dozen students, along with teachers and administrators from the high school, who attended a forum at City Hall on a proposed underage drinking law that would prohibit people under 21 from possessing alcohol on private property.
Sanctions would include a $90 fine, which would also be levied against anyone hosting a party where underage drinking takes place.
As it stands, state law doesn't address underage drinking on private property.
Some see that as the state's way of protecting the sanctity of the home.
Others, such as the Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, see it as a loophole that puts teens' lives in danger and allows underage drinking house parties to go unchecked.
Leaders in more than 40 towns - including Brookfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield and Sherman - saw it as a loophole and passed a law to close it.
Legislators in Hartford are considering adopting the law as well.
However, the law has hit a snag in Danbury.
At a forum on the law Monday, members of the Common Council worried the law was too broad.
Common Council members said they aren't ready to adopt a law just because other towns have already done so.
They want a law that draws a distinction between "Animal House"-like parties and a parent who chooses to allow his or her child to have a sip of wine.
Council member Thomas Saadi said the proposed law doesn't exclude religious activities. That means Jews who serve wine to underage kids at a Passover meal could be subject to a $90 fine, Saadi said.
Common Council president Vincent Nolan said the council has two problems with the law, which was proposed by a council subcommittee at the behest of high school students and administrators.
First, it oversteps parental authority, Nolan said. Second, the law's penalties are too weak.
Sniffin, meanwhile, urged the Common Council to adopt the law, then revisit it to make revisions.
"This all doesn't have to be done in one shot," he said.
Some parents worried the law would be abused by nosy neighbors who would call the police and report underage drinking just to annoy their neighbors.
James Clap said the law would "undermine the integrity of the police department" by causing them to respond to hundreds of false calls.
Tim Salem, an assistant principal at the high school, asked what specific problems Common Council members had with the law. He said Danbury is beginning to "look bad" since other towns passed it already.
High school teacher Lisa Frese was even more blunt. "Now Danbury is the party town because we don't have the ordinance," she said.
Some students left the meeting disappointed.
"They should definitely put it through faster than they are doing right now," said David Franklin, 17.
"I feel some of them are really unsure of which way they want it to go," said David Glynn, 16.
The proposed law is returning to a Common Council subcommittee for retooling. It is not scheduled to be discussed at the next Common Council meeting.
Meanwhile, the fate of the state law is expected to be decided within the next three to four weeks. Nolan, the Common Council president, urged residents to lobby their state representatives to get that law passed.
Contact Eugene Driscoll
or at (203) 731-3348.