Locals Say Alcohol Ban Is Racist

Apr 24 2012 – 12:00am | Adrian Omar Ramirez, The University Star

Daniel Rodriguez Scales remembers a time when his family had to sit in a separate section at the Ritz movie theater because of the color of their skin.

Now, as a San Marcos resident, he claims he is seeing race become a major issue again.
“I innately know racism,” Scales said. “I taste it. I smell it. I see it. I hear it and I feel it.”

Scales and his wife, Lisa Coppoletta, are alleging the new city council ordinance regulating consumption of alcohol and the use of barbecue grills unfairly targets Hispanics in the area.

The couple claims the local Hispanic population uses the parks the most. According to Coppoletta, the high volume is because of limited options for those living in poverty in San Marcos.

“They can’t go shop at the outlets. So, their form of entertainment is to go out and barbecue,” Coppoletta said. “Taking those barbecues away would take away that entertainment.”

Howard Williams, San Marcos Police Chief, disagrees that there is anything racist about the ordinance.

“It’s kind of a ridiculous proposition if you ask me,” Williams said. “Race has nothing to do with this. Excessive alcohol consumption is causing the problems in the parks, and the race of the person (drinking) has nothing to do with it.”

However, Coppoletta and Scales said there is little truth to the claim that the new regulations actually target a real problem. Scales said he visits Rio Vista occasionally and has never witnessed the behavior the alcohol ban would attempt to prohibit.

“My understanding is that there are certain families that engage in behavior that can be perceived by some citizens as troublesome,” Coppoletta said. “But it’s very clear what kinds of families are going out to the park.”

According to Williams, the ordinance is not an outright ban on either alcohol or grills.
“Perhaps they should do some homework as to what it’s trying to accomplish,” Williams said.

The solutions are in current laws being more actively enforced, to Coppoletta and Scales.

“They’re not getting to the root of the problem,” Coppoletta said. “They need to enforce existing laws, because they are deferring citizens from their birthrights. Since the ordinance has been presented, all different groups have come forward wanting the beer and the barbecue, but no one wants to pick it up.”

Coppoletta suggests better alcohol education would help prevent many problems in the park, as well as provide more jobs for the working poor to help keep areas clean.

Williams assures there is nothing racist about the ordinance.

“I don’t know the proportions of different races going to the park, but it doesn’t matter,” Williams said. “It’s the behavior that is being prohibited.”