SCORE ONE for the old biddies and their jizz-filled fears of a downtown absolutely packed with the worst and most profane brand of street drunk imaginable.
They got their wish, and on Wednesday, September 15, Portland City Council unanimously endorsed Commissioner Amanda Fritz's plan to ban sales of cheap hooch—malt liquor and fortified wines—downtown. The goal is to cut off the supply of swill that, they believe, makes so-called "undesirables" fall asleep on their condominium doorsteps.
And the downtown residents who showed up in high-waisted pants to back the proposal looked appropriately smug when the outcome was announced, confident they'd done their part to strike a blow for decency. Also tourists. And rich people.
Presumably, all the people lying in doorways will now start wearing suits and join them in line for the theater or for hot morning lattes. Except that they won't. Because here's the thing: While this ban might take away certain types of hooch, it won't do a damned thing for solving addiction, helping with mental illness, or giving someone a hand up off the street. It might even force some drinkers out of the reach of detox workers.
"A meaningful solution is going to require some commitment to treatment and care," said Rob Wheaton of Oregon AFSCME. "It's not going to be addressed by Prohibition."
More evidence this effort is about class as much as health, the only advocates anyone on the council listened to were lobbyists. From the wine and grocery industries.
Because they bent commissioners' ears in the hallways outside the meeting, an exemption was carved out for the strong wines—like yummy California zins! Oooh!—favored by the hoity-toity. But 16-ounce cans of regular beer, the kind enjoyed by office workers and vagrants alike, didn't have a defender. And now they're included in the ban, too.
Of course, none of this keeps someone from filling up on 12-ounce cans or hopping on the MAX to some market somewhere else that sells the hard shit.
"I'm here to speak for the alcoholics, a subgroup that probably isn't represented here," said one homeless Portlander the council, Michael O'Callaghan. "You guys think you're going to stop me from drinking? How absurd!"
The biddies rolled their eyes, but everyone else chuckled. He was right.
"There is a problem," he continued. "The fundamental problem is people have nowhere to go."