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A Pocket of Sanity

by Ned Wicker

Kenosha, Wisconsin is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, just north of the Illinois/Wisconsin border. Once known as an auto industry town, it has seen more than its share of economic hard times in recent years.

But most recently Kenosha has stood apart from the rest of Wisconsin by enacting a city ordinance that goes after adults who tolerate, facilitate, fund or otherwise turn their backs on underage drinking parties. What a concept for Wisconsin—a law that is aimed at drinking!

Wisconsin Leads the nation

Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking, drinking among high school students, underage drinking and drinking and driving. Drinking parties are so common in this state that Kenosha police can easily find the parties and it’s not a mere slap on the wrist when the cops crash the party. Not only do the kids get ticketed, the adults also receive a nice $1300.00 citation for allowing it.

The ordinance is aimed at the adult “deemed to be the host” of the party, and believe me, there are plenty of parents who gladly turn a blind eye to this sort of thing. After all, when they were kids they had a few drinks too. They see no harm in it.

It is part of the culture in Wisconsin and people refuse to accept the reality—allowing kids to drink is a serious mistake. Drinking people see having beer and liquor at a party as being a “staple” a kind of necessity. There’s nothing wrong with that in their minds. Research has shown otherwise.

Too young to drink

You get a kid involved with alcohol at 14 or 15 and you stand a pretty good chance that the child is going to struggle with an alcohol use disorder of some kind in the future. You get a kid drinking early and there’s a better than 1-3 chance they will develop the disease of alcoholism. If they wait until they’re 21, chances are far greater that problems will not arise. So, this is no innocent “right of passage” issue, it’s a major health calamity.

Smart To Target Parents

"You teach your kid, I don't care what age he is, he can't legally drink until he's 21," Kenosha police chief John Morrissey told WTMJ television in Milwaukee. "And shame on those parents who think it's okay to serve somebody else's kids." The station sent a reporter along with Kenosha police offers on two nights in April and May. They had no problems finding the parties.

The first encounter was, believe it or not, a “Suite 16” party that mom threw for her daughter. The police and camera crew discovered 25 teens, aged 15-19 and lots of liquor. It gets better. Mom actually charged each kid $1 admission! That was not enough, however, to cover the $1300 ticket. Morrissey told the reporter that she was the “poster child” for why they target parents.

There’s a serious issue here. It’s one thing to condone your own child’s drinking, but it’s quite another matter to allow someone else’s child to drink. Irresponsible is just too mild to describe the complete lack of judgment parents and consenting adults use in rationalizing why it is proper for children to drink. It’s not just at private houses, either. We see it out in the open, as adults buy beer for underage baseball fans at the Milwaukee Brewers games. We see it at Summerfest on Milwaukee’s lakefront, even though event organizers go out of their way to control the problem and cooperate with police.

Some Just Don’t Get It!

So many adults in Wisconsin just don’t get it. There are whispers in small towns that the local high school sports teams had a drinking party. The coach, not wanting to sacrifice the team’s record, turns a blind eye. If the kid is a good athlete and a starter, you do nothing. Well, boys will be boys, right? Drinking parties are not innocent. Young people lose their inhibitions, one thing leads to another, and soon there is a major issue to deal with. How many teen pregnancies start with a drink?

"We are a hard drinking state. We rank #1, #2, or #3 in a myriad of categories nationally," said Steve Frederickson of the Concerned Citizens Coalition in the report aired on May 25. There are currently eight states that have laws similar to the ordinance that Kenosha passed. Of course, Wisconsin, with its culture of excessive alcohol consumption, is not likely to act on such legislation. Too bad. Kudos to Kenosha.

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