Discretion, like politeness, should be at heart of bylaw enforcement

The era of good behaviour is upon us everywhere — first Red Deer, then Sylvan Lake and now the Red Deer River.

The era of good behaviour is upon us everywhere — first Red Deer, then Sylvan Lake and now the Red Deer River.

A little politeness, niceness and observance of rule is usually a good thing, but sometimes good behaviour enforcement can be a little over the top.

Sylvan Lake will get its first really big test of its new good behaviour bylaw this long weekend when hot weather, cold drinks and the summer party mentality are set to come together in a perfect rhythm — or storm — depending on one’s viewpoint.

Too many cold drinks, too much sun, too little access to public washrooms and music not nearly loud enough, will no doubt keep Sylvan cops rolling on their Segways handing out tickets to the non-observant.

The Sylvan bylaw, which only came into affect only a couple months ago, didn’t get a big run on July 1 because it fell in the middle of the week this year, much to the relief of many residents and law enforcers.

Sylvan has a permanent population of more than 11,000. When summertime hits, on a good day that number can triple.

Police handed out only a handful of $500 tickets to people fighting or taking a whiz in the wrong place.

Under the bylaw, poorly mannered people can also be awarded tickets for other behaviours, such as spitting or graffiti.

Until the last week or so, the lousy summer weather has had a calming affect on the disobedient-prone. Police will be the first to tell you, the hotter it is, the dumber some people get.

Now comes the August long weekend, likely going to be the biggest of the year for Sylvan, Central Alberta’s tourist mecca. The promise of good weather will lure many there to get it on.

But this year, if the party animals, aka yahoos misbehave, they’ll feel more, by way of the pocketbook rather than the cold hard concrete floor of the dry-out tank.

Red Deer brought in its community standards bylaw about 18 months ago, and of course all 90,000 citizens have been on their best behaviour since. Mind you, these 30C temperatures has caused some normally good people to almost test that bylaw, no names mentioned.

Good behaviour in Red Deer was noticed most recently during CentreFest on Saturday. Despite the heat, hundreds of people, especially families with children, enjoyed the light and good humour of street entertainers.

The public laughed and participated, and not one misbehaviour was seen, except for a noisy little girl who simply needed a nap.

Who doesn’t in this heat?

Good behaviour, of course, is to be lauded. But sometimes we go overboard.

On Saturday while going over the 49th Avenue bridge, I observed the Red Deer River surface almost entirely covered in brightly coloured inflated plastics, carrying along at inchworm pace. It was possibly a record number of river rafters. It wasn’t exactly a crime scene.

If you’re from Red Deer, you’ve done the river. Generations have floated the river. Now people from “the big city” are coming here, too, to enjoy the relaxing ride with a fantastic view.

This summer, good behaviour authorities have started clamping down on everyone using the river because some people are parking where they shouldn’t or being a bit too rowdy. For the most part, though, people have been of good behaviour, without heavy-handed enforcement.

Now officers of the law stand on the shoreline, confiscating alcohol, and handing out tickets to everyone and anyone.

I’m all for good behaviour but I can’t see how a few drinks as you float the river is a big deal. Certainly if people are coming off the river slam drunk, they should step in.

But two people on a raft in the river with a six-pack, what’s the big deal?

Let’s lighten up a little. It’s summer.

Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant editor. She can be reached by email at barr@bprda.wpengine.come or by phone at 403-314-4332.