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Doubts Linger About "Zero Tolerance" Alcohol Policy For Chicago's South Side Irish Parade

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 15, 2012 4:00PM

Image Credit: Ron Reason

Not everyone responded to the news that the South Side Irish Parade Committee was granted a permit to bring back the event after a nearly three-year hiatus with open arms and cries of "w00t."

"Verda Foster has a routine for the day after the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

"The longtime manager of the Harvest Christian bookstore near 106th Street and Western Avenue first picks up beer cans and bottles strewn in front of the store. Then, she brings out the hose to wash off the urine-stained sidewalk and roof.

"On Saturday, Foster was told the historic parade will be rolling down Western Avenue once again in March after a nearly three-year hiatus.

"'Oh, Lord,' Foster responded.

“'I was rejoicing when it was called off because of the streets ending up so torn up and ripped up with beer cans and beer bottles,' Foster said.

“'It would be great if there was a way the city could control the garbage and rowdiness, but I don’t think that’s really possible.'”

19th Ward Ald. Matt O'Shea is also skeptical parade organizers can enforce a "zero tolerance" policy to open containers and drinking in public. O'Shea posted an announcement on his website detailing his discussions with the committee.

"My position on this event has never changed; I could not in good conscience support the return of the South Side Irish Parade until the Parade Committee can implement a proper public safety plan to prevent rowdy, drunken, and often violent behavior that has become synonymous with the parade in recent years. Moreover, I have argued that parade organizers should reimburse the City for the $300,000 in services and police protection associated with this two hour event. In the past, these expenses have been almost exclusively shouldered by the taxpayers.

"Last week, members of the Parade Committee shared with me their public safety plan and budget for reviving the parade this year. Unfortunately, the safety plan they offered was not a detailed, strategic proposal authored by a professional security consultant. Rather, they submitted a single sheet of paper that listed roughly a dozen bullet points aimed at establishing a "zero tolerance policy" for open alcohol at the event. Seeking guidance from the law enforcement community, I shared this plan with several police officials. Each raised several valid concerns. Our conclusion is that this plan is well-intentioned, but terribly insufficient and very difficult to execute.

O'Shea sent a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Jan. 9, six days after organizers filed their permit. [Read the letter here. (pdf)] O'Shea hopes to set up public meetings to discuss residents' objections to the parade and concerns over the committee's security plan.

Here are some reminders of what the parade became before its hiatus.

We can totally see why they want to bring this back.