Littlefield on Bar Security

This column from City Councilman Bob Littlefield appeared in today’s Scottsdale Republic:

Council reacts to PR instead of taking any real action on bars

Recently, an editorial appeared in these pages praising Mayor Jim Lane’s grossly misnamed “bar­ security proposal” and criticizing my observation that the proposal is merely a PR stunt that is “too little, too late and too weak.” Well, the facts speak for themselves:

  • Since 2003, when then-Councilman Wayne Ecton and I successfully pro­posed requiring conditional use per­mits, or CUPs, for bars in downtown, my council colleagues have yet to even consider revoking a bar CUP.
  • Neither the mayor nor any of his bar-friendly allies on the council made any effort to increase security in the bar district until the public outcry over the fatal stabbing of a security officer in January forced their hand.
  • Even after that first stabbing, the mayor’s bar-security proposal went nowhere until there was more public outcry over a second stabbing at the same bar last month. In response, the mayor scheduled a staff up­date on his bar-securi­ty proposal. Any action even on this pathetically weak ordi­nance is months away.

Actions speak louder than words, and the actions of mayor and the coun­cil majority make it clear they are re­sponding only to the PR problem these stabbings have caused for them.

The pro-bar crowd used these same PR tactics when the council considered a noise ordinance to protect downtown residents in 2010. The first shot in their PR war was to claim there was no prob­lem. When local activists produced voluminous evidence of real problems, the next dodge was to claim the city was taking bold steps to fix them.

That claim went down in flames when one of our senior staff members admitted at a City Council meeting that, six months after the City Council had passed a pathetically weak noise ordi­nance, the city had yet to even order the noise meters to enforce that ordi­nance!

The editorial resurrects for the ump­teenth time the dodge that those of us who want to protect Scottsdale resi­dents are trying to “put bars out of business.” No, what we want is bars that keep their patrons and employees safe and don’t destroy the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods. But achieving that goal will require the city to drop our hands-off, reactive attitude toward Scottsdale’s bar district.

We have plenty of tools to increase safety in Scottsdale’s bar district, such as revoking the CUPs and requiring bars to use off-duty Scottsdale police officers as part of their security. What we lack is the will on the part of the majority of my fellow council members to use these tools.

Bob Littlefield is a Scottsdale city councilman. He can be reached by e-mail at bob@boblittlefield.com.

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