Get Out of Town - The Loop, One More Time

(June 18) For the third straight week, we’re going to discuss the Loop. I suppose it makes sense because it was three City Commissioners I kicked out two weeks ago. But there is now a fourth public official who has forgotten about his constituents.
But I promise that this is the last time (at least for awhile) that we’ll talk about this issue. I’ve done it to death, but there has always been new info for me to rant about. This week, not only will I talk about Monday’s City Commission meeting but a few other observations that have come to mind in recent days.
I’m going to start off with something positive. If you really think about it, if the Loop is the most pressing issue we’ve got going in this city, then we’re in pretty damned good shape. Really, this is a pretty great city…but it could be better.
This past weekend, my son and I spent some time downtown on both evenings. On Friday, we decided to hit Black Sheep Coffee (formerly Great Plains Coffee) around 10:30. With 14th Street an undrivable maze of construction, we took 10th Street to the coffee shop and 11th Street for the drive back home. Satuday, Alec went to a multi-band show at the Multi-Cultural Center, so again I had to make that same drive. On both evenings there were a handful of cops stationed on the main corners of the Loop. On both nights there were hardly any people loitering in the downtown area. It seems that Cade and I’s assertions that enforcing existing laws and maintaining a police presence would calm the storm.
But that didn’t stop Moe, Larry, and Curly from hosting a circus Monday evening. I didn’t attend as planned, but a good friend did make his presence known, and called me late Monday evening with his observations.
It seemed obvious to him that this was supposed to be a done deal, and they treated the citizens as such. In fact, they had obvious disdain for anyone who thought differently than they did. Business owners were treated like loyalty; ordinary citizens (both Loopers and non-Loopers) were treated like the Plague. When my friend testified that he was never a Looper but spent every weekend frequenting downtown businesses, they were incredulous. Because they would frequent restaurants in the early evening, there theory was that was the case for everybody else. Most restaurants don’t close their kitchens until after ten; most also stay open until they have to close.
This is the reason he was complaining about the idea of closing the streets. Downtown is a pain as it is; closing 2nd Avenue is a huge inconvenience for anyone coming from the Southeast side of town that is destined for Nitwits, the Brewery, Acme, and many others.
I have also stated through this entire debate that it’s my belief that the complaints of public urination and trash were not caused by the Loopers, but by the late-night bar rush and the local homeless population. This view was seconded by a taxi driver, who stated that he witnesses this sort of behavior on a nightly basis. Oh, no, says our elected officials.
And let’s take a look at the businesses whining the most. The jewelry store that had photo exhibits accompanying their cries sits next door to the pool hall which legally hosts both underage and drinking crowds. Shutting down the Loop will do nothing to help their situation. The old lady clothing store a half block farther down the street sits right next to Skelly’s. Drunk people do leave that establishement…and let’s not forget that the Arrow is only two blocks from both of those businesses.
None of that mattered to the Three Stooges, and their fourth Stooge, Shemp, aka Tim Kant. As I said before, they had nothing but disdain for anyone not of the suit and tie category. In fact, here’s what Kant said about the people hanging out downtown - "you guys are spending way too much time worrying about these kids," he said. "Get rid of them. I don't understand how they can stand around downtown doing nothing." Sorry, buddy, but they are also your constituents; some may eventually become customers of your wife’s business. They’re just as much citizens as your Fox News-loving supper companions.
And Mr. Kant became even more incensed when the entire package of laws were not immediately ratified. Throughout the night he kept stating that it was all or nothing. C’mon, Tim, you don’t get a free large fries by passing the entire set of proposals. As stated earlier, if a police presence is already easing the problems, maybe nothing needs to be passed. At the very least, let’s make some gradual changes before we affect everyone.
At the end of the evening, only one proposal was voted into law – the loitering ordinance. Despite the fact that the chief of police basically admitted that this unconstitutional law was bound to be selectively enforced, the commission voted to outlaw any groups of 10 or more from hanging out in the downtown area. As I said before, no law that’s selectively enforced is a good law, and if you’re going to arrest grungy-looking hard rockers, you have to also arrest the suit and tie crowd. When this does come into law, somebody has to put together a protest…I’m willing to take a ticket for the cause.
But since the silver-spooned commissioner didn’t get this way, he ranted and raved to the media yesterday that hid entire package didn’t pass. Sorry, Tim, but there are a few sensible thinkers among your colleagues. And then Carol Pagones had to chime in that without these changes an already struggling downtown would hurt even more. Excuse me, but didn’t her office recently send out a press release that for the first time ever there was 100% occupancy downtown? Just a few years ago the downtown area was mostly empty. Maybe this Loop situation isn’t such a deterrent for business.
You know, there are many other things that I could say – from complaining how our elected officials have learned the tricks of playing politics (such as the continuing use of words such as gangs and sexual predators) to Kenyon Gleason’s silly claim that no other cities have young adults converging downtown (been to Minneapolis laterl?). I think everyone gets the point…and I really do appreciate the comments that I’ve heard from people on the street. I have somehow struck a chord with a few people. Trust me, next week I’ll be back to pissing people off.
But let’s end with a positive note. Instead of creating new laws, why can’t we attempt something positive. There is a problem with young people having nothing to do. Our airwaves are filled with commercials pleading with them to stay in South Dakota. Why can’t we put together a section of town devoted to young adults. A block or two featuring bars for those old enough to partake; maybe an arcade or similar businesses for those underage; and kiosks selling pizza, burgers, tacos, and other snacks. Bands also have a tough time finding places to play; why not host some bands. Let’s give the kids something to do.


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