Without deviation from the norm, 'progress' is not possible.--Francis Vincent Zappa
Just in case you missed it, our city council got the holy hell beaten out of it on Sue Henry's show this morning. I was surprised when she started her show by coming out against this tomfoolery that seems to make sense to some of the members of our legislative body. And the topic dominated her WILK show for over an hour. Caller after caller from some far-flung corners of the area said some rather nasty things about The Magnificent Seven. And Sue reminded me of some past legislative action proposed by Jim McCarthy to rid the Square of what he called "creepy crawlers."
Well guess freakin' what. If this past weekend was any example, the crawlers are still being creepy out there. On Saturday, a guy in wheel chair was exposing his private parts to fiesta goers. And yesterday, some loony armed with a knife robbed the CVS on S. Main. And me? I was cruising the downtown with two rodents in tow on my elongated bike. Obviously, to hear council tell it, I am a part of the problem in this city.
Let's recap this dysfunctional thinking being masqueraded as forward-thinking, shall we? The very last I heard, we had laws on the books banning prostitution, no? And yet, prostitutes still dot the downtown landscape. We have odinances forbidding all sorts of hideous and annoying goings-on, right? On Public Square, illegal parking, loitering, panhandling, skateboarding, cruising, and cavorting with aforementioned crack whores are all banned and highly illegal. Yet, they still go on. Now, a meeting of the minds has produced the latest legislative cow dung. Now, we need to ban bicycling and roller blading from here forth. If the skateboard slackers of the area have been able to thumb their collective noses at our well-intentioned, but toothless and needless ordinances, what's to say bike riders won't do the same? And why have the slackers, the hookers, the pimps, the cruisers and the panhandlers been able to ply their trades on the Square for so long? Why? Because no one is available to enforce said rules. Nobody! Nobody is there on any sort of consistent basis to enforce what council deems to be so god damned important. For all intents and purposes, city council is attempting to "keep the peace" in an area that is almost completely devoid of any peace officers on most days. And how smart is that?
We don't need any ordinances banning anything in the downtown. What we need is a cop, one single cop, stationed on the Square. One cop. That's it. One. We need one cop patrolling the Square, the first block of S. Main, the first block of N. Main, the first block of W. Market and the first block of E. Market Street. One freaking cop. Is that too much to ask of a city government eager to prove that the crime rate in this city is in fact dropping and the city is safe for the multitude of envisioned movie goers? We can't commit a single cop to the Square while our two horse units mosey around the city joined at the friggin' hip? Why not have one stationed in the Bilo area where our horse cops can so often be found patrolling, and have one calling the Square home? Instead of refreshing the mulch on the Square next Spring, have the landscaper dudes scatter some hay around.
This is more infuriating than it is ridiculous. And if you ask me, it's pretty freakin' ridiculous. Do you wanna make the Square Park a utopian city center? Plant a cop in the middle of it. Jesus H. Christ! We're not trying to cure testicular cancer, or figure out how to propel a spacecraft all the way to Uranus (hint, hint) using only sticks and stones here people? The sure-fire way to prevent idiots from displaying their abject idiocy is to introduce an attentive cop into the eye of the idiot hurricane. Whichever council person (gender neutral bullspit) thunk up this outright stinker of an ordinance ought to be made to write "I will not pass mental farts in session" ten thousand times on the official city council blackboard.
We need one cop stationed on the Square, kiddies. That's one as in one less than two, just in case the architect of this utterly nonsensical legislation is finding it hard to follow my painfully simple program. One cop. One. Forget East Station already. While a dozen or so folks from the Heights are all but freaking out over a closed firehouse that Iraqi dirt-herders would deem to be unsafe, the rest of us are clamoring for more police officers to be hired by the city. The fact is, we need more cops. And we need one on the Square.
And to think that we're going to legislate our problems (bicycles?) away rather than putting some law enforcement boots on the ground smacks of a collective "DUH!" from the folks purported to be our fearless leaders. If didactism, regressiveness and anal-retentiveness is what you seek from your law makers, this proposed ordinance is a winner sure to thrill the folks leaning on the walkers. But at the same time, it sends yet another painfully clear signal to the youngest of the folks among us that they should opt to join the tail end of the neverending wagon train comprised of young folks headed for the more progressive communities out there somewhere.
You will not ride your skateboard in this town. You will not ride your bike in the forbidden zones. You will not in-line skate anywhere near the lottery-addicted registered voters. And you will not be allowed to do what the council folks themselves did when they were but kids, while we convert this flailing place into a "college town." (???) There are those among us who should reconsider how all of that sounds to those of a much younger prospective.
You know, the fuddy-duddies.
Is that beyond our reach?
And what of the adults who happen to be bicycling enthusiasts? Are Tony Thomas Jr., Jim McCarthy, and Phil Latinski really prepared to tell me where I can and cannot ride my bike? These people are to all things bicycling what your garden variety slug is to jogging. Are my amazing grandchildren and I to be forever banned from the downtown simply because we choose to pedal our way from one end of this city to the other? What should I tell Gage Andrew? No, we can't enjoy our Sunkist sodas and Chips Ahoy! cookies in the middle of the Square anymore because a few embattled council folks wanted to score some points with the neurotic voters too old to walk an entire block without wheezing? No, Gage, you can't ride your smallish bike through the fountain as your mommy had done many years before, because if you do, you are no better than those "creepy crawlers" in the minds of the city's leaders. And, no, you can't lose the sneakers and run through the fountain. That's sure to cause a stir in the minds of the folks that think a bit of their utter brilliance spelled out on a piece of paper will make the world a perfect place without the necessary muscle to enforce it.
Again, what of the adults? I can no longer ride my bike to the Gallery of Sound? What should I do? Dismount at Jack Knelly's Market (they deliver) and walk the f>cking thing through town? Is that what they're telling me? Well, guess what. They can all kiss my lilly white ass. And speaking of the S. Main Gallery of Sound, the dude in charge of that retail outlet told me to bring my bike inside the store while shopping in there rather than leaving it on the sidewalk out front for all of the glad-handers to have a whack at. Consider that for a fleeting moment. Some on our council see my favored mode of transportation as a criminal act that should be punishable by fines and, or imprisonment. Meanwhile, back at reality, a downtown merchant not only does not care how I arrived at his shop, he gave me a reason, an above and beyond the cusp reason to keep on shopping there. Maybe we should put that twenty-something rock 'n' roller in charge of city council. He welcomes not only myself, but my bike into his store. Is there a lesson to be learned here?
One of the newest businesses in our long-suffering downtown happens to be Around Town Bicycles, Inc., located directly behind Musical Energi. What we have here are two guys who risked their own money to open a bicycle shop in downtown Wilkes-Barre. So what sort of conflicting signal is city council contemplating sending to the pedaling masses? Please, please, please, by all means, come to downtown Wilkes-Barre and purchase your next bike. But, be warned...don't let us catch you riding that bike in our downtown? Is this how we go about proving to the younger folks that Wilkes-Barre welcomes them with open arms?
What we have here is a clear example of misplaced priorities paraded before us as effective governance. And if it is actually passes into law, it will be completely ignored by this bicycling diehard. You wanna fine me $25 for riding a bike? Have at it. Wanna fine me even more? Knock yourselves out. Wanna have the cops trying to pacify a couple of wailing grandchildren while I'm being fingerprinted and processed? Do it. And if it comes to that, be prepared to face a new and dedicated adversary when reelection time comes a calling. Because if this is the very best that the lot of you can come up with, you are not deserving of too many votes.
Try it. You might like it.
You won't see me at the council meeting begging anyone for the rights I was supposedly guaranteed when our constitution was quilled. Nah, I'll skip that one like so many others I have chosen to skip.
But when I get up in the morning and spread that newspaper open, I had better read that some of our more intelligent council folks overruled those who seem to be operating without a clue of late.
When I was a kid, gramma and I walked downtown. And when I was put in charge of a slew of kids, we bicycled our way downtown and had at that fountain on a hot summer day. And now my grandchildren have been introduced to bicycling their way through downtown Wilkes-Barre and they absolutely love doing so. As soon as they hit town, they start in with, "Pop pop. Can we go for a bike ride?" And I always answer in the affirmative. A new tradition of sorts has been established in this family. The "bikeabout," if you will. All of this, despite downtown Wilkes-Barre laying in ruins all these years. But now that we're seemingly on the way back from being an insignificant and long-failed place, I'm being told that my free-wheeling kind are no longer welcome here?
The mayor takes us one step forward, and the council seeks to take us one step back.
What of the adults?
What of the grandchildren?
What of the new traditions?
Too much to ask?
What of the bikeabouts?
I imagine we can just as easily find some Sunkist sodas and Chips Ahoy! cookies in Kingston. That is, if Wilkes-Barre's city council mandates that we need to do as much.
And what of the new traditions?
You got me. Ask those elected folks with their fat heads spearheading some sort of proctological adventure in legislating.
I gotta roll. I've been advised on numerous occasions to never, ever fire up the word processor in anger. But tonight...I could really care less what anyone pandering for votes might think of me or my thoughts.
Repeat after me: ONE COP!
That's...one freaking cop.