COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS
It’s hard to fault San Marcos City Council members if they’re a little punch-drunk these days after weathering several months of unrest and insult from residents uneasy about the way things are developing.
As if they just can’t invite enough abuse — or maybe unsure anymore which ways is up — the council has now given preliminary approval to an ordinance that would ban alcohol and, sooner or later, barbecue grills in San Marcos city parks. Only Jude Prather said: Enough is enough.
I think it will be easy to become too alarmist about this. Many, maybe most, of us will probably be unaffected. I don’t accept that most people who support the ban have overtly racist motives and I don’t think its most persistent proponent through the years, City Marshal Ken Bell, has some dark scheme to expand his piece of the San Marcos law enforcement turf. I take him at his word about his reasons but I still think he is wrong.
My problem is that an ambitious, young city council can’t seem to get San Marcos on the map for anything but saying “no.” No beer or wine at Rio Vista or Purgatory — no smoking at the Tap Room or Cheatham Street — no new buildings that make anybody mad — no plastic bags at HEB. In other words, no more of the things that make the San Marcos experience what it is for so many of us. To be fair, the proposed citywide smoking ban stalled — but it will be back — and most of the council hasn’t weighed in much on the pending single-use plastic bag ban proposal. The way things are going, however, it sounds right up their alley.
This is naturally not how some of them see it but I think this is how at least some of us in San Marcos at-large do. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
The council is in danger of letting narrow interests hijack their agenda, interests shaped by the sort of people who, to paraphrase a movie, claim to love San Marcos but clearly can’t stand the people who live here. Let’s be clear: The forces that killed the Sessom project — that would kill everything if given the chance — are the same ones that now want to ban alcohol in the parks and smoking in private businesses. They are the same ones that a few years ago tried to ban letting your dog ride in the back of your pickup. They are forces that think they know better than you. They think San Marcos would be a better place if only the right kind of people were allowed in.
This council wants to do Big Things but unfortunately the Big Things that always seem to come up involve taking away and tearing down instead of creating or building.
I wish the enthusiasm I see for these boutique bans — one tailored to every whim — were matched with focus on building roads and infrastructure and, most of all, an environment of opportunity for the everyday people of San Marcos who don’t already have their ticky-tacky box on the hillside.
It’s gut-check time on what’s important to the city council. If they think it’s been hard-slogging so far, just keep telling San Marcos to be somebody — anybody — but ourselves.
An ordinance approved on the first of two votes Tuesday night creates these changes to rules for San Marcos parks and natural areas:
► Makes the consumption or display of alcoholic beverages on park land prohibited. Provides for entering and leaving the river with a “no open container” rule;
► Includes refined definitions for the codes;
► Makes provisions of all park codes apply in Natural areas and Green Spaces owned by the city;
► Includes disruptive conduct provisions for programs approved by the department operating on city parks areas;
► Increases the minimum fine amount for littering in the San Marcos River;
► Prohibits smoking and tobacco products in play areas and athletic fields;
► Clears up miscellaneous provisions on posting of temporary restrictions;
► Authorizes the Park Director to establish rules for use of BBQ pits;
► Prohibits the use of Styrofoam materials in the parks and river;
► Adds the possession of certain fishing spears and gigs and allows parks programming exemptions;
► Prohibits the possession of alcohol on any dam owned by the city;
► Requires the securing of lids and covers to containers in the San Marcos River