By Pueblo y Salud
Various community sectors were well represented at the last Palmdale Planning Commission meeting held March 12 at the Palmdale Council Chambers. The more than 100 attendees included school officials, teacher unions, health service providers, pastors, civic leaders, business owners, parent and youth.
All were present to send this clear and urgent message: Certain areas in Palmdale have too many liquor stores and they are impacting negatively on our children.
Whether the planning commission and city staff heard anything that was said is yet to be determined. Comments made by planning commissioners at the end of the session left one wondering, but the organizers and community presenters stated that they still have hope that changes will be made.
“We are ready to continue this effort until they hear us, we cannot stop until our children are safe,” stated Bishop Henry Hearns, representing Living Stone Cathedral and the African American Leadership Council.
Approximately 33 letters of support were presented to the planning commission from various entities, including the AV Healthcare Board, which oversees Antelope Valley Hospital. Letters of support were also submitted from Palmdale School District, the Palmdale Elementary Teachers Association, AV Community Clinic, AV Partners for Health, NAACP, AV-LULAC, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church and more.
The overriding message planning commissioners heard many times was encapsulated in the letter written by Pastor Father Vaughn Winters. “Our church and school facility lie on Avenue R4 in the heart of 93550, and very near to several liquor stores… Reducing small liquor stores will help clean up the vibe and image of our neighborhoods and reduce the alcohol-related problems we face,” the letter stated.
Ms. Holly Shafer, lead researcher and policy analyst with Alcohol Justice, a nationally renowned alcohol policy institute from Marin County in Northern California, stated, “Palmdale is a community saturated in alcohol, resulting in excessive consumption and harm to public health and safety, particularly in zip code 93550 and 93552.”
When asked about the impact on youth, Ms. Shafer cited a recent survey conducted by the Substance Abuse Prevention and Control Department of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. “Compared to youth in other areas of Los Angeles County, a typical youth in Antelope Valley is more likely to know of a store that sells alcohol to minors and to say that it’s easy for them to obtain alcohol,” Ms. Shafer stated. “It’s no surprise, then, that that they are also more likely to have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days and to have engaged in binge drinking than other youth in LA County,” she added.
As it relates to youth who attend schools in Palmdale, Ms Shafer stated, “At Palmdale middle schools in zip code 93550, Desert Willow and Juniper, 17% of students 11 to 13 years of age say they know a store that sells to underage youth; these students are more likely to report having consumed alcohol when compared to 7th graders in all Palmdale middle schools.”
As she continued to address the Planning Commission, she added, “As policy makers, limiting off-sale density is one of the most effective policies you can support to mitigate the harm endured by the community and to protect youth.”
This assertion is buttressed by findings expressed in a report titled “Reducing Alcohol-Related Harms in Los Angeles County -A Cities and Communities Health Report,” which was put out by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in 2011. In the report, Jonathan Fielding, who was director of public health and health officer at the time, stated, “A density of alcohol outlets increases alcohol consumption, motor vehicle crashes, alcohol-related hospital admissions, injury deaths, assaults and violent crime, suicides, drinking and driving, child maltreatment, and neighborhood disturbances.”
Researchers like Dr. Robert Nash Parker of the Presley Center, UC Riverside, have found violent crime rates 6 to 12 times higher as compared to the average for the city in areas with alcohol outlet density within zip code 93550. Alcohol prevention advocates, Pueblo y Salud and the Palmdale Prevention Community Council, conducted two town hall meetings in the past two years to inform the residents of these findings.
Mrs. Waunette Cullors, Prevention Project Coordinator for Pueblo y Salud, stated “I am a MOM with capitals, and I am proud of being a nanny-type person. Only a NANNY-type person like me would be concerned about the health and safety of our children. But guess what; there are thousands of nanny-type moms and dads out there who won’t let their children get hurt like that. We won’t stop until our children get the environment and protection they deserve.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The AV Times.
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