A smart tool | Editorial

On Monday, Dec. 5, the Mercer Island City Council passed an ordinance designed to help stem the tide of underage drinking on Mercer Island — drinking that is facilitated by adults.

It is an open secret on Mercer Island. Teens drink far more and far more often than anyone hopes to acknowledge. They drink with the acquiescence of some parents.

As a recent letter to this newspaper pointed out, many Island parents with teens get weary of being blamed for this particular problem. Parents are already tasked with the heavy lifting of raising children here. Like parents through the ages, we watch and worry and anticipate trouble. We teach, threaten, wheedle and hope for the best. But the kids who drink or smoke drugs are, more often than not, good kids with good parents. They sometimes find themselves at a party at a house with lots of liquor. And sometimes, there is an adult upstairs, who knows something is going on but chooses not to know — and not to find out. There are some who shrug and say they would rather their teens drink at home than out somewhere else.

If the police are called to a house, they are often told “they didn’t know.” With this new ordinance, if police see underage drinking, they will get out their ticket book. Will they talk to the adult and find out what happened? Will they listen? Can they decide not to issue the infraction? Yes. The police will use their training and discretion to decide if a violation has taken place. If an infraction is issued, the adult will be able to make their case to a judge. The consequences? A $250 fine and a possible mark on your record.

Across the United States, there have been a number of these ordinances put in place. After injuries and even deaths, local officials are desperate to find ways to discourage underage drinking. Will this solve the problem? No, not by itself. But as Councilman Dan Grausz said after the vote last week, the ordinance represents another tool in our toolbox to address this very serious issue.

We need to try everything we can.


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