Balloting on beach booze ban impacts N. County

August 12, 2001 No Comments

Mary Curran-Downey. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Aug 12, 2001. pg. N.2

“Dog bites man” may not be news, the journalism adage goes, but “man bites dog” will catch the reader’s attention every time.

There are two reasons this is so. First, there is the concept of the unexpected — it’s not unheard of for an animal to attack a human, but we don’t usually expect a person to act the same way. Second, and just as important, is the level of understanding expected of the reader. We understand the relationships between humans and animals, and we have strong feelings about those relationships.

People and pets: That’s something we know and understand and, therefore, will be more likely to read about in a newspaper.

Which brings us, strangely enough, to the issue of banning drinking alcohol on some local beaches. We know about this issue and most of us have strong feelings about it, either pro or con, so you can be assured that between now and the referendum in San Diego March 5, there will be plenty of news generated about it.

At the same time, much will be written about proposals to save the Social Security Administration, an issue that has far more implications for all of us than whether it will still be Miller time at Mission Beach.

But for the most part, we are confused by what can or should be done to repair the massive federal system, so we focus on what we DO understand.

And if a poll taken recently by The San Diego Union-Tribune is any indication, we do know exactly where we stand on the booze-on-the- beach issue. It was almost a clean split down the middle, with 42.8 percent supporting the ban, 49 percent opposing it and only 8 percent undecided.

That’s far less than the percentage of undecided voters just weeks before the last presidential election.

Many in North County may think this isn’t their issue. But keep in mind that Rancho Bernardo, Carmel Mountain, Carmel Valley and Rancho Penasquitos are within the San Diego city limits and they’ll be targeted heavily by both sides because of the high concentrations of voters there.

If you live in one of these neighborhoods, be prepared to see supporters and opponents at information tables in front of every grocery store, dry cleaner and video rental outlet for the next seven months. They probably won’t change anyone’s mind, but they will be hoping that the constant exposure to the issue will get people to the polls.

I’ll be voting for the ban, and for two reasons: I remember distinctly the day my husband and I were with our then-toddler son at Mission Beach — navigating between the boardwalk crowds and the trash cans overflowing with beer cans — and decided to stick to North County beaches.

And, believe it or not, I don’t believe there is any inalienable “right” to drink alcohol on the beach. There’s habit, there’s history, but there is no right that will be infringed upon. Our freedoms will still stand strong if the ban is imposed.

Drinking on most North County beaches is already against the law, except in Del Mar, which may reconsider after the big fight on the beach over the Fourth of July weekend.

And here’s something to ponder: I don’t hear of a single call from any North County leaders saying they want to change their own city laws so that if San Diego votes for the booze ban, they can welcome all those drinkers from the south. I can just see it now: “Now that you can’t drink all day at south Pacific Beach, come spend an afternoon with us in Encinitas!”

I don’t think so.

Yes, this issue has all the elements of a good story, one that we’ll hear about for many months. OK, so we’re not fixing Social Security. But we are, as a community, deciding an issue that is important to us. And who knows? Next March, the headline might read, “Man bites hair of the dog that bit him.”

Mary Curran-Downey can be reached at The San Diego Union-Tribune, 355 W. Grand Ave., Suite 5, Escondido, CA 92925, or by e-mail at mary- -currandowney@hotmail.com.

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