“The Party is Still Over” according to the city of San Luis Obispo, along with Cal Poly and Cuesta College, all of which have created an extensive plan to create a safe Mardi Gras 2006 weekend. The plan was announced at a press conference held Wednesday on the steps of City Hall in San Luis Obispo.
Modeled after last year’s successful and uneventful weekend, San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deborah Linden said she hopes to maintain complete safety to prevent out-of-control partying such as violent riots, hundreds of arrests and damage to property and injuries to officers that ensued in 2004’s Mardi Gras celebration.
“Our community has become a national destination for young people looking for Mardi Gras wildness,” Linden said. “The situation became increasingly dangerous and unhealthy for the community. Mardi Gras needs to be over in this community.”
Mardi Gras 2005 proved to be a success with a 58 percent reduction in arrests, only one report of an injury that was to a police officer, quiet emergency rooms, safe neighborhoods and no complaints filed against any of the 400 officers who worked the operation in 2004, Linden said.
Linden also spoke at last night’s ASI Board of Directors meeting, where she thanked the students for doing their part to maintain order last year. The task force spent over $350,000 in combined costs, this year the budget stands at $300,000, Linden said.
This year, over 350 officers will be in full patrol on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, mounted on horseback, in cars and even on all-terrain vehicles, Linden said.
Linden explained that the events that lead to the riots and violence in 2004 brewed for over a decade, and because of that it will take more than one successful year, like that of 2005, to end.
The goal of the press conference was to announce and outline the city’s plans for the Mardi Gras weekend, to thank the community for its support and cooperation with the local government’s efforts last year, and to ask for everyone’s help again for 2006, Linden said.
Linden was joined by a variety of prominent figures in the community who are involved in “The Party is Still Over” campaign such as: San Luis Obispo Mayor Dave Romero, City Council Member Paul Brown, City Administrative Officer Ken Hampian, Cal Poly Vice President for Student Affairs Cornel Morton, Cal Poly Dean of Students Jean DeCosta, ASI President Tylor Middlestadt in addition to representatives from Cuesta College and police officers.
The Mardi Gras operation period will run from Thursday, Feb. 23 through Fat Tuesday, which is Tuesday, Feb. 28. The team of officers will be patrolling the usually chaotic intersection of Foothill and California, and there will be a variety of DUI checkpoints throughout the entire city.
Linden explained at the conference that the Safety Enhancement Zone Ordinance will be in effect for the entire Mardi Gras period, which means certain violations will be triple-fined. In addition, the nudity ordinance will be in effect in which public nudity and flashing will be illegal for the Mardi Gras weekend, Linden said.
As part of the campaign, police officers will be distributing pamphlets door-to-door in San Luis Obispo and will be sending state-wide press releases to discourage students from UC, CSU and community college campuses from coming to San Luis Obispo to party during the Mardi Gras weekend and to let them know that “they are not welcome here,” Linden said.
“Our goal for our officers that weekend is to have proactive interaction with members of the public but they will be strictly enforcing the law,” Linden said.
Cornel Morton, Cal Poly’s vice president for student affairs, reiterated the police department’s message to ensure a safe Mardi Gras weekend.
Morton explained that the students at Cal Poly, in his view, are responsible students that do not want to be arrested, injured or placed before the university’s judicial system.
“We, as student development professionals in student affairs, reinforce responsible behavior by acknowledging the students’ good work but by also challenging them to represent themselves in responsible ways,” he said. “I also want to convey the university’s commitment to working with the city of San Luis Obispo and all of its residents to make Mardi Gras a safe event that people can feel good about.”
Middlestadt echoed the remarks made by Linden and Morton for a safe Mardi Gras event for the entire community including Cal Poly students. He explained that this year’s plan is a replication of what was developed last year, which he was a part of as executive vice president of ASI.
“Hopefully the students and the community can all agree that this is something that we need to address so we can step up to the plate and do our part,” he said.
In reaction to the large number of officers that will be infiltrating San Luis Obispo this year, about 50 less than last year, Middlestadt said even though that many officers may not be needed, it is a necessary precaution so that the city is better safe than sorry.
“I hope that as we stand here today a few weeks from now we can gather and celebrate a successful, injury-free, incident-free Mardi Gras,” Morton said.