Wednesday, August 07, 2002

The Rubber Hits the Road

New laws intended to limit "flexing," or cruising, in the downtown area are about to pass, according to this Commercial Appeal story.

It's like watching some 1960's juvenile delinquent film. Kids just being kids, with a 21st century twist, are about to be clamped down on by adults who seem to have forgotten their own experiences with cruising. We create a society that "lets kids be kids," give them lots of money and toys, then give them lots of time and little responsibility, fill their heads with the world of commerce and music video and not the expectation of adult behavior, and then wonder when we get "flexing."

Downtown is hyped endlessly as "the place to be." But when youngsters with not enough money to spend on idle attractions or too young to club show up to be a part of things, it's suddenly a problem. Maybe someone should consider a suit against the City for creating an attractive nuisance? The problem stems from three things.

Commerce It's all about the money. Business owners, developers and homeowners on the Bluff are all worried about loss of income or property value from the cruising. The solution, of course, is not to find a way to integrate the kids, but to shut them out and protect the investments.

Bad Planning Lack of sufficient parking, narrow streets fronted by huge crowd draws, and poor traffic planning, as well as lack of proper policing and traffic control, are all foreseeable consequences of the City's efforts to pack a lot into such a small space.

Territoriality Some of the prime movers as yet unaccounted for in the CA are the homeowners on the Bluffs overlooking Riverside Drive. They will even admit to it, though it doesn't make part of the story in print. They, and the developers, all seek to create a "Manhattan on the Mississippi." Except they only want the Upper West Side part, not the whole thing. It's "their" downtown, not the City's. These kids and their cruising are ruining it for them and so they have to go.

Listening to WDIA's morning show today the message from the callers was clear. White kids can behave any way they want on Beale and that's OK, but the black kids? They're a problem. Several callers alluded to incidents during the Memphis in May music festival, regarding drunken behavior and public sex! Can anyone who reads Half-Bakered and was there back this up? I'm curious.

Back to the CA. The paper still doesn't quote any crime or police statistics, only nameless and potential fears like these:
"...several council members recounted
personal horror stories with young cruisers who were driving
erratically, shouting at other downtown visitors and otherwise
behaving badly....
Councilman Tom Marshall recounted how he and his family felt
threatened by cruisers during a recent visit to downtown to
celebrate his wife's birthday....

Council member TaJuan Stout Mitchell recalled an incident in
which another driver terrorized her by zig-zagging from lane to
lane on a downtown street.

"My wife was getting catcalls,'' Marshall said. "You feel like your
life is at risk."
Should we even take talk like this, bordering as it does on racism, seriously? Not one of them actually demonstrated any harm!

City Councillor Barbara Swearengen Holt even straight-facedly said this:
"Automobiles are not toys,'' Holt said. "They can be dangerous
weapons if not used appropriately."
Can we expect her to order the police to start setting up sobriety check-points around downtown to stop the numerous drunks leaving the area from threatening the rest of the community with their behavior? I'm not hold my breath.

This whole thing is just ludicrous.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

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