As was reported in a previous NYRA blog entry, NYRA participated in several work group sessions with DC City Councilmember Jim Graham. Graham wanted to introduce an ageist bill, but was willing to listen to some of what we had to say, and the final draft of the legislation was significantly better than what Graham was going to introduce before. While NYRA appreciates Councilmember Graham’s willingness to let us participate in the legislative process, we are still opposed to his bill for a number of reasons.

Last night several NYRA members attended a public committee hearing at which Graham’s bill was discussed at length. Towards the end of the hearing, NYRA Executive Director Alex Koroknay-Palicz, NYRA President Scott Davidson, and ACLU of the National Capitol Area Legislative Council Stephen Block testified against the bill. Mr. Block’s testimony focused on the provision in the bill that makes underage drinking a criminal offense in certain places. The remarks that Koroknay-Palicz and Davidson delivered to the committee focused mostly on the aspects of the bill that make it more difficult for those under eighteen to enter bars and clubs.

Councilmember Graham introduced his bill in response to the tragic death of Talesha Ford, a seventeen year old woman who was shot at a DC night club. In addition to making clubs safer, the bill will keep young people out of many bars and nightclubs. NYRA feels that instead of violating the civil rights of potential victims, the government should work to keep dangerous criminals out of these establishments. As Alex Koroknay-Palicz said in his testimony “…the person we need to blame is the man who pulled that trigger. The shooter is and was an adult. If this bill was enacted then, it would have done nothing to stop him from being at that club. His stray bullet would have just hit someone else and a different family would now be mourning.”

The hearing lasted about four hours, and most of the people who testified supported it. Much of the testimony did not deal directly with the issues with which NYRA was most concerned. NYRA brought a number of young people to the hearing, but they had left by the time NYRA representatives testified.

NYRA does support certain aspects of this bill. We think that having clubs submit security plans and allowing clubs to directly hire off duty police officers are excellent ideas.