This Week's Get Out of Town
(June 4) On a typical cool Friday evening in May, the crowd began to gather in the early evening. Wannabe gangstas drove their daddy’s sports cars up and down the street, blasting 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg with the bass set at ten. Clems in pick-up trucks with 44 license plates admire each other’s Nascar shirts. Girls who shouldn’t wear tank tops expose way too much skin, chain-smoking while waving to any car that honks. Older guys compare the engines on their low-budget hot rods.
It’s another weekend night on the Loop, but tonight there’s one difference. Standing in the window of an office building, safely shielded from the so-called chaos, is City Council members Andy Howes, Darrin Smith, and Kenyon Gleason. They were “fact finding” in preparation for an assault on the future of The Loop.
Give me a break. If they really want to experience the loop, they should have been down there on the street with these silly young adults. They would have learned a lot more about these people, and why they have nothing better to do on a Friday night then hang out downtown.
I have to say right here that I like Andy Howes. I may not agree with his opinion on this topic, but anyone who likes Wilco, Son Volt, and the Replacements is okay in my book. Maybe it’s a fantasy, but I’d like to believe that the scenario between him and his co-horts was something to the effect that he wanted to hang with the homeboys, but that prissy little Kenyon told him it was too dangerous.
Days later, the City Council meeting turns into a mini-riot not unlike the recent heated exchanges between Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken. The Loop is not unlike Sodom and Gemorrah, claim the city leaders. No, it’s like a Bible reading, say the Loopers. Both sides couldn’t be more wrong, so of course nothing is accomplished.
Don’t get me wrong. I can understand the concerns of downtown business owners. I certainly wouldn’t like the daily tasks of picking up trash and cleaning up vomit and piss. I’d be upset if my building was vandalized. My family has had to deal with similar problems at times in our business, so we know the headaches.
But who really is puking and peeing in the doorways? Is it the Loopers, or do these activities actually happen long after the Loopers have stumbled home? Keep in mind that there’s a number of bars downtown – Skelly’s, Touche’s, Minervas, even bars as far away as Acme and the Top Hat are bound to have a few stragglers passing through the downtown area. It’s much more likely that these are the prime offenders. And then there’s the homeless population. Yes, it does exist in Sioux Falls.
And then there’s some of the other claims made at the City Council meeting. Rapes are rampant; sexual predators are searching for their next victim. Where’s the proof? And if something like that did happen does that mean that Wal-Mart should shut down since there was an armed kidnapping there? Or that any date rape that occurs should lead to the closing of the bar or restaurant they had earlier frequented. Maybe I’m offbase, but I’d guess that people are safer when they’re hanging with a crowd than in more intimate surroundings.
The silliest idea that has come out of the whole controversy is the planned introduction of a “driving without destination” law. Under this plan, if a person is to pass the same point three times in a certain time period they will possibly get a ticket. This is plain silliness, and will do nothing to decrease the pee and vomit. You’d have to have a pretty good aim to hit a doorway with any bodily fluid from a moving vehicle.
The biggest problem with this law is the selected enforcement that will inevitably come with it. Will that middle-aged couple circling the block looking for that perfect parking spot at Minerva’s be nailed? Nah. Sorry, but if the law is enacted it should apply to anyone.
What’s even scarier is the possibility of using this law to target people that have done nothing wrong. I know we don’t like to think anything bad about our police, but I can see a car full of black dudes being pulled over for “driving while black”.
And there’s also the reality that closing the Loop will just make these people find a new place to congregate. Falls Park, the mall parking lot, any large open area could become the new hangout. Or everyone could head outside the city limits, where violence and other illegal activity could flourish. Private parties will also flourish; again a potential for big problems.
What can be done? It’s pretty simple – enforce existing laws. Have a constant police presence downtown; and I just don’t mean bicycle cops. Arrest those that break even the most minor law. Hand out traffic tickets to those that can’t figure out turn signals, speed limits, or the volume control of their stereos. Make anyone caught littering (or worse) come downtown the next morning to clean up the whole area. Concerned citizens can help by coming up with events so kids have something to do - putting on hip-hop and rock shows would be extremely helpful. But let’s be real – the Bowden Youth Center serves a purpose, but throwing more money into it is a waste as it’s way too controlled of an environment for the majority of young adults. There has to be some sort of perceived edge and freedom to any city-sanctioned activity.
I must once again say that I’m willing to give Andy Howes the benefit of the doubt in this controversy. But Kenyon Gleason – this is just another in a long line of pushing his personal value systems on an unsuspecting public. It’s time for that good little Catholic boy to go back to a church gig; I hear there’s some Catholic priests looking for some fresh meat.


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