Pattison’s bid to support safe underage drinking defeated

Morinville provided support to Morinville Community High School’s mock collision prior to graduation last year. A motion by Councillor David Pattison to provide financial support to a Safe Grad initiative was defeated 3-1. – Morinville News File Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – A motion to support the Morinville-Legal Class of 2013 Safe Grad initiative was defeated with a 3-1 vote in Council Chambers Tuesday night. Councillor David Pattison cast the only supportive vote in favour of his motion.

Council had received a request to support the Morinville Community High School’s 2013 Graduates Parent Committee’s goal to “provide a safe, organized and supervised atmosphere for grads and escorts at an undisclosed location immediately following the graduation ceremony, dinner and dance.” Though the group requested no specific amount, sponsorship monies would be used to offset transportation costs for the event in order to ensure none of the students or their escorts drink and drive.

Pattison’s motion was to provide $250 for the event, money to be funded from Council’s 2013 Public Relations Budget balance.

“Safe Grad is one of those initiatives where we’ve got parents working with their children, working with their young adults,” Pattison said. “I believe that providing funding to this group would be very appropriate for public money for that very reason.”

Pattison’s only concern was what dollar amount to assign the motion. He ultimately settled on $250 after learning the value of the bus rental was approximately $500.

But other members of Council had bigger concerns with spending taxpayer dollars to support what some saw as an underage drinking event.

Councillor Sheldon Fingler took issue with spending public money on private drinking. “I think the idea of Safe Grad is an important part of our community, and it’s a great thing to do to keep the students and our future leaders of our community safe; however, I do have concerns putting taxpayers’ dollars towards a Safe Grad event that involves underage drinking, and many other different factors that relate to it.”

Fingler was not alone in his opposition. Councillor Lisa Holmes echoed Fingler’s sentiments. “I’ve thought about this more than anything else on the agenda,” she said, adding she felt tax dollars should not be spent on what in essence could be deemed an illegal activity. “As much as I support the initiative, it needs to be parent driven and parent funded.”

Councillor Gordon Boddez said he has supported Safe Grads for many years because they are proven to be safe. “But I also have some concerns about providing taxpayer money towards it,” he said. “I tend to feel it is more of a private event that is sponsored by the parents for their students to graduate, and it just doesn’t quite sit right with me for Council to be providing funding to support it.”

Both Mayor Paul Krauskopf and Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein declared a conflict of interest prior to the discussion and left Council Chambers during the debate and ensuing vote.

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  1. Those councillors who defeated this bill…. Would they rather have us drunk, driving around town? Would they rather young lives be spent because of drunk driving? This government needs to give their head a shake and get their priorities in line. Do they support keeping the community safe, while watching their bottom line, or do they support drunk drivers, while hoarding what money they have. Do they even know the whole concept and logic of Safe Grad?!? Obviously not. Safe Grad is not promoting an illegal activity, instead, providing a safe (key word!) option for MCHS Graduates to enjoy their night, while in a supervised, controlled environment. It’s that or a bunch of drunk teens roaming town. The story seems to stereotype teens as illegal drinkers and in a sense, criminalizing us. Every year, MCHS Grad Charity Committee raises money to help our community. This is how we are perceived by council and media? It’s time council takes a closer look at what MCHS Grad 2013 has in store, and really investigate the good we do in this community, and truly understand how Safe Grad is excellent for Grads and this town, instead of stereotyping us.

    • Tim, the story reports what was said in Council Chambers and how the vote was cast by those members of Council able to vote. It presents commentary from those in favour of it and those against it. Nothing more, nothing less.

      All Councillors were supportive of the concept in principal – they were not all supportive of using taxpayer’s money to support the initiative, particularly when underage drinking is a possibility.

      To play devil’s advocate here, financial support of $250 or not will not make or break Safe Grad. A bottle drive in an afternoon could generate that much money. However, financial support of even $250 for Safe Grad COULD conceivably put the municipality in some liability issues should the event go pear shaped…as unlikely as that may be given parents desire to make grad safe.

      The FACT liability insurance is available for Safe Grads proves litigation is a concern and a possibility.

      Canot speak for Council beyond what has been quoted, but I would hope such things are weighed when decisions like this are made.

  2. Going into the council meeting tonight, I was surprised to see that the Safe Grad group had approached the town in order to request funding but I was looking forward to seeing which members of council would vote in favour and which would vote against it if a motion was put forward.

    I did not expect a motion to be put forward at all, to be honest. I assumed that the council would understand the importance of a town council as being the body that is tasked by the people to look after their basic needs including their health and safety.

    And they did. Well, all except for one. Councillor Pattison.

    I appreciated the comments from Councillors Fingler, Boddez and Holmes. The comments were simple and straight forward. They have personal beliefs, however, those are moot when they sit at council because they have to consider all 8500 or so members of their community and what they would want. They also have to consider the town’s liability or potential for liability.

    In the end council came to the right decision. The decision was to stand on a higher moral and ethical ground and to not support underage drinking which is illegal.

    Well done to the 3 who voted against in the 3-1 motion defeat.

  3. Bill, just a suggestion. Go to your grad committee and decide what YOUR priorities are. If a party is all you want, dress down the outlandish and expensive grad ceremony that is planned every year, and enlist as many parents/teachers you can find to supervise a grad party and provide transportation. I’ve put kids through high school and have paid the big bucks to have my kids involved in the over-priced hype known as high school graduation. For the average wage-earner, it’s a lot of money for parents to dole out. You may have more parents on your side than you think.
    On the council’s side, I can understand the liability issue. Yet, at the same time, I find the comments regarding the misappropriation of using tax monies to fund a safe drinking party just a bit “off”. How much of our tax dollars go to funding the emergency and hospital services in our community to pay for tragedies on our roads, etc involving young kids who have been drinking? Slightly more than $250, I would think. Good luck, and congrats, kids. Have fun!

  4. I agree with the councillors’ final decision, in that public money should not be used to support what is in fact a public event. That is for Safe Grad doesn’t matter. That it is for members of the town who have fundraised for the community doesn’t matter. It is a private party in its purest form. If the Town approved stuff like this, what is next, our Safe Grads requesting town grants so that people won’t drive home drunk from their weddings? An exaggeration yes, but why not?

    As suggested above, given the other dollars that the graduates will put out for limos, fancy clothes, etc, shelling out the few dollars per person or fundraising to support it themselves is not unreasonable.

    Finally, I would say to Bill that enjoying a fun night with alcohol in a safe environment is something responsible people 18 years and older do. If someone at any event is drinking underage, it is illegal. If the people drive home drunk from any event, that too is illegal. And they will individually pay the price.

    Saying that we (the town) won’t pay is not stereotyping students, not appreciating the need for a safe grad event, or anything else. All it means is that the students, soon to be officially entering the world of responsible adulthood, need to start learning to pay their own way like other adults do. This event is a great time to start. By asking the Town to pay for your private party, you are perpetuating the stereotypical student that doesn’t accept responsibility or pay their own way. Prove us wrong and pay yourself. I, too, raised two teenagers who went through this.

  5. Raised three boys in Morinville and was part of three safe grads.

    This is a party after the official grad, and should be supported

    by those attending and the parents. Like it always has been.

    Fund raise a little more, or raise the ticket price. This is not

    something that should come out of taxpayers money. I do firmly

    believe that the kids do deserve a safe grad, but do it yourselves

    like all the other grad classes have done before you and quit the whining

  6. I am pleased to hear that our town councillors know how to draw a line and keep it. While Safe Grad can be an option, it is to be a private party sponsored by parents and grads. Even though it is out there to try to help keep kids safe it is important to understand that it is an illegal activity and government should not be supporting it.
    For Bill and other Grads out there who want a safe and non-illegal alternative, a Dry Grad is a great option. Once again it is a parent and grad supported party. There is no drugs or drinking, just fun activities planned. I haven’t heard of them being offered here but I know my high school had both a safe grad and a dry grad. Around the same number of students attended each. The only difference was the students who chose to go to the dry grad had no hang overs, remembered their graduation better and many indicated that they had more fun then if they had chosen to spend the night drinking. It’s something you might want to consider.

  7. Bill, you accuse others of stereotyping teens and yet you are the only one guilty of such, and I quote : “It’s that or a bunch of drunk teens roaming town”

    I fully support the decision made by Town Council not to provide money for what is in FACT an illegal activity. Call it whatever you want but anyone drinking under the age limit is performing an illegal act.

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