Alaska city mulls outlawing walking the streets while intoxicated

It could soon be against the law to mere walk the streets of a remote Alaska city while drunk.

Bethel, in the western part of the state, is reportedly considering changes to its public decency laws, including one that would ban walking on city streets while intoxicated.

The ordinance, which was recently introduced by the Bethel City Council, would also ban public excretion within city limits and add language to existing law against littering, defacing property, shoplifting and selling tobacco to minors, reports.

“Our Bethel Municipal Code doesn’t have a lot of teeth in it,” Councilmember Sharon Sigmund said. “It’s like my dog. He has very few teeth left and if he bites you, you probably wouldn’t even know it.”

Walking while intoxicated on the community’s ice roads would also be banned under the amendment.

“It’s not geared to prohibit the intoxication as much as it’s geared to keep these areas of our community safe,” Sigmund continued. “Public streets and roads, ice roads or highways, are very dangerous areas. They have a lot of fast-moving, big vehicles. A lot of foot traffic as well. To have an intoxicated person in those particular areas makes for an exponentially greater risk of harm not only to the person who’s intoxicated, but anyone who’s traveling on those roadways.”

Not all local lawmakers support the potential changes. Councilmember Rick Robb said he backed most of the ordinance, but had concerns with the public intoxication component.

“I can’t support that particular section,” Robb told the website. “I understand people can be a menace, but there’s other ways to handle it than outlawing drunk walking.”

Bethel, roughly 400 west of Anchorage, is the largest community in western Alaska and was reportedly named America’s taxicab capital in 2007. Although the town has just one single paved road that stretches roughly 10 miles, Bethel had 93 taxi drivers at the time, or roughly one cab for every 62 residents. That's by far more taxi drivers per capita than anywhere else in the country, according to Alfred LaGasse, executive vice president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.