City, festivals fall short of expectations
It’s difficult for those of us who live and work in the central district around Courthouse Square when festivals such as the Italian-American Festival come to the square. Most small businesses chose to close their doors, rather than lose money during the time of the festivals. Some residents leave for the weekend or bunker down at home, venturing out when necessary. Pets get walked less frequently and friends and family, due to the added difficulties of gates, barricades and donation tables blocking their access, stay away. I don’t allow my 20-year-old daughter to park in the garage, but direct her to High Street or the Presbyterian church parking lot, because I believe she’s safer there.
When the festivals and the out-of-town vendors leave our neighborhood, Courthouse Square and surrounding streets are littered with garbage. We become rightfully incensed by the lack of respect for our property and person.
Saturday and Sunday evenings of the festival, as I walked from my car parked in the garage behind David Grohl Alley and onto Market Street, I saw nothing but groups of unchaperoned teenagers loitering on the corners, milling in the alley and the parking garage. There wasn’t an adult, police officer or security officer in sight. There were fights between the groups and taunts by them directed toward adults and families walking to and from their cars. There is a video of teen boys bouncing on the hoods of cars parked in the garage. Saturday afternoon a group of teens tossed glass bottles from the top tier of the garage onto the alley below. Think about what might have happened had someone been walking below and gotten hit. Many calls were made to the non-emergency 911 telephone number to report the criminal activity, but there was no police response.
Eventually, unless someone takes responsibility, something terrible is going to happen to someone. Since they have never been held accountable, these groups of teenagers have become emboldened, while the residents have become increasingly defensive, frustrated and angry by the threatening atmosphere and lack of adequate response from the city administration and festival committees.
The festivals have a responsibility to the central district to leave the square as they found it. The festivals and city administration have a joint responsibility to our peaceful neighborhood and those visitors who come to celebrate, to protect them and their property. Personally, I find the festival’s arrogance selfish and offensive, and I find the city administration negligent. Our neighborhood is one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city and should be treated so.