You know, it’s nice when government ‘works.’
Take for instance, this week. There was a quiet meeting Wednesday with Midtown business members, event organizers and the APD. The focus of the strategic meeting, the third annual, was on the safety issues associated with the Labor Day Black Gay Pride events going on in the city, particularly in Midtown.
Once upon a time, the venues at 708 and 714 Spring were owned by one person, who, shall we say, didn’t care much about what went on outside his doors. I do not have any direct evidence of badness, but I did observe the street prostitution magically drifted back east of Peachtree the day after 708 closed. Buh-bye.
One of the main issues we had during that owner’s tenure was the massive amount of out of towners who descended into our west side neighborhood Labor Day weekend. We had fights, shootings, lots of hissing, cops with loud sirens, and thousands of people spilling into the streets at 10AM. It got to the point APD would simply close Spring Street in the name of public safety. The result would be tactical scrambling instead of strategic planning; not the best use of resources.
You can imagine living on the same block as that circus. We decided to take charge. I contacted Major Khirus Williams, who was Zone 5 commander at the time. We hosted a meeting at Spring4th Center, worked out safety plans and traffic/pedestrian control that are still in use to this day for Labor Day weekend. (Zone 5 command officer Captain Thomas was a fixture at these meetings, bless her.)
The impact was significantly positive. In 2011, the meeting expanded to include logistical and safety discussions between APD command staff, APD GLBT liaisons, safety officers and traffic specialists, and the organizers of all Black Pride events, including the owners of The Bulldog, the new owner of the venue at 708, Piedmont Park Sunday events and the Melia Hotel and the owner of the Daiquiri Factory. By that time we had expanded to 714 and had a hot business going.
As a result, the impact of this event initially focused on one section of the neighborhood in Midtown that has blossomed from what it was (unorganized chaos) to what it is (organized chaos, with glitter!). Last year, Major Leighty and Captain Thomas were instrumental in getting street barricades installed without the usual ‘issues’ and permits along Spring. Given the flow of two businesses and the pre Midtown Plan sidewalks here, no doubt lives may have been saved. This is when government ‘works.’
This year’s meeting overviewed past strategies, and tweaked where necessary, but it was still critical as all parties have the opportunity to meet and discuss ‘on the ground’ issues with concerned businesses. We have a plan and it works. The neighborhood is better because of it, and we all know each other on a first name basis.
Having sat in on countless ‘public input’ forums with private neighborhood groups, city council committee and NPU-E meetings, I found them, well, generally lacking in effectiveness by being structured ‘top down’ instead of ‘bottom up’ (quit giggling!). The organizational structure is so last Millennium!
No cocktails were served. As a result, much was accomplished.
This is the way government should interact with citizens. All it takes is people on both sides who actually care about neighborhood safety and a facilitator. Government works best when issues are targeted. What other events motivate you to participate in meaningful public input?
Given the trend towards Social Media, do you think a small meeting like this is more effective in targeting CERTAIN SPECIFIC safety issues than the current process?