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Thankfully we are all privileged and lucky to live in a free country. However, the term free is not a single thing, but it is a much larger sum of smaller bits and pieces of rights, freedoms, and privileges. The very process by which I am expressing my own thoughts is something I do not take lightly, yet it is only a small portion of the term “living free.”

In the past few years, we as Americans have been complacent by giving away these bits and pieces without much thought or resistance. Instead we have focused on small issues and traded them off with little or no gain.

Take for example, the new “hands free” cell phone law we happily allowed to pass last year. We looked at a few isolated times we got upset at some other driver, and thought “sure, ok… I guess, yeah teach that knucklehead a lesson and make them put on a headset.” We conveniently ignored the hundreds of thousands of times we’ve passed people talking on cell phones and driving responsibly.

The real problem is not whether the phone is pressed to the side of the head, but it is the real problem of people not paying attention while driving. Reckless driving is already a crime, so was it necessary to make a person recklessly driving with a cell phone now “doubly” a criminal? We allowed this to pass without one shred of evidence that says use of a “hands free” device will make the roads any safer. Yet, now when you have an important call come in while you’re driving that you HAVE to answer… you are now a criminal regardless of your ability to responsibly to drive and talk.

The beach alcohol proposition is merely another one of these debates: Do we give up our right to enjoy community parks responsibly at a picnic or barbeque with an alcoholic beverage because of the less than one percent of people who act poorly? And if we do give up our freedom, what do we get in return?

On the proponent side of Proposition D side you have frustrated beachfront property owners concerned over “binge” drinking behavior in an isolated two block portion of Pacific Beach. Rather than focusing on this issue in this area, Proposition D covers over 26 miles of coastline and 2000 acres of parks. Beaches, bays, and parks that have had zero problems are also included in this ban. Not only does it cover the 5-7 busy weekends where a problem might happen, it also includes the balance of the 365 days where the beaches look like a desert in Arizona.

Never mind the fact that all of those “binge” behaviors are covered by over 30 existing laws, what do we get if we ban alcohol?

Interestingly in this case we are coming out of a short experiment (the temporary ban) and we can examine a few effects. So what did we get in a six-month trial ban? First and foremost, fewer people at the beach, a lot fewer. Twenty percent fewer on average this summer and nearly 50 percent fewer people on the holiday weekends (San Diego Lifeguard Beach Statistics). Sure you could blame a poor economy, but why would a “free” public resource see a severe downturn in attendance when things such as the San Diego Fair and Track Season did not? Clearly the ban is the driving factor.

We also saw an increase in DUIs, over 37 percent according to crime mapping statistics from Automated Regional Justice Information System, or ARJIS (May through July, year on year). This number jumped significantly along with public drunkenness being up nearly 10 percent; all of this in the face of fewer people visiting our community.

The homeless didn’t pack up and leave as promised, they just moved into our alleys behinds our homes and businesses.

So as a tradeoff, we’re asked to sacrifice the privilege to CHOOSE to have a beer or not at MANY parks and beaches throughout the City of San Diego, not just the beach. For what?

It’s no coincidence that you see the most “Yes on D” signs on beachfront homes. I’m sure if I had the ability to have a beer in my private yard and enjoy a deserted beach, I would be pro ban too.

However, I realize that it is important to preserve those little freedoms, the things that make paying the paradise tax worthwhile, even if I only choose to have a beer on the beach one or two times a year.

Please join me in Voting NO on Prop D and demanding that we find a real solution that addresses the issues and does not take away our freedoms for nothing. If we chip away at this freedom, what’s next? What freedom do you value, and why do think it’s an exception to sliding down this slippery slope?

— JEREMY MALECHA

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