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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Welcome to Rapid City (hic-up) ........How do you like our vagrants?

I waited half the night last night for the Rapid City Common Council to do something newsworthy. Then at the end of a four-hour plus meeting, they went into executive session and returned to council chambers to suspend enforcement of all public drunkenness ordinances.

Citing SDCL-34-20A-93, the council says they are forbidden by state statute from doing anything with downtown sots other than haul them to de-tox. It appears that if you go to open your downtown retail establishment and there's a drunk aggressively panhandling your customers, you and the police are powerless to stop him.

34-20A-93. Intoxication not an element of criminal offense. Except as hereinafter provided, neither the state nor any county, municipality, charter unit of government, or other political subdivision may adopt or enforce a law, ordinance, resolution, or rule having the force of law that includes drinking, drunkenness, or being found in an intoxicated condition as one of the elements of the offense giving rise to a criminal or civil penalty or sanction.

It is not against the law to be an obnoxious public drunk in Rapid City. It is not against the law to aggressively beg for money from our visitors. It is not against the law to vomit and pass out in an office building's hallway. And, according to the state law cited, a municipality can't pass an ordinance to protect the people who collect sales taxes from abusive, aggressive and offensive drunks.

Looks like our legislators have a job to do.

The Rapid City Journal's stories on the problem, probably prompted the action. It's an excellent series.

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