Friday, July 18, 2014

Liberty versus Anarchy in our community

I’d like to take a moment to address the series of incidents which took place several days ago at the Sacred Heart of Jesus festival.

First, a bit of history: My parents moved to South Euclid in 1971.  I went to Anderson elementary school, then Memorial and Brush.  After graduating, I moved to Massachusetts - returning nine years later and living in various parts of the Cleveland area.  I moved back to South Euclid in 2008.  The convenience of South Euclid for me, in terms of being close to my job and an easy drive to our area’s cultural and entertainment hub, is an attraction that’s very enticing.

I have never felt unsafe walking my dog or otherwise going about my business in South Euclid. My neighbors are polite and friendly.  But it's appalling to learn of the sort of behavior reported at the festival taking place in our city.  Two years ago, a resident was murdered in front of her home, and the perpetrators’ presence in the city may have been connected to the festival.  Last year, there were multiple incidents of violence at the festival.  And this year, the incidents involved more people, covered many blocks, and there were even reports of shots fired.  Even though the majority of the perpetrators were from outside South Euclid, it's alarming to learn these events are on the rise a short walk from where I live.  The pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus church, Father Ireland, has been seen in several interviews complaining that the activity of these youths threatens attendance at the festival.  He seems less concerned about the danger to the community as a whole.  I’m certain that Father Ireland wants what’s best for the community.  But, as President Kennedy said “Sincerity is always subject to proof” and the efforts of this church, thus far, have fallen short.  I’ve read that the church provided only 12 security personnel at this year’s festival – and it’s unlikely that all 12 were on duty at any given time.  If Sacred Heart of Jesus church is unable or unwilling to provide adequate private security for their festival, then permits for future festivals should be denied.  There is now a pattern of neglect on the church’s part and they should not be accorded more lenient treatment simply because they’re a church.  If this festival had taken place at a mosque and there had been similar incidents, it would have been shut down long ago. 

I supported Issue 65, South Euclid's safety forces levy – and I shudder to think what might have happened if there had been fewer officers available over the weekend.  But I do not want our cops put in harm's way when it's avoidable, and I want to live in a community where citizens have a reasonable assurance of safety.  I also demand, as a citizen, that our police department be permitted to post information without censorship by city officials.  It disgusts me that the South Euclid Police Department, for whatever reason, deleted their post about the events Saturday night.  

Above is a screen grab of a post made by a South Euclid police officer which appeared on the department's facebook page, then was deleted.  Thankfully, a citizen saved this picture before the post was yanked.

As I mentioned earlier, I moved back to South Euclid six years ago.  For the first time since I moved here, I am questioning the wisdom of that decision and seriously considering leaving - and I know I’m not alone in that regard.  South Euclid cannot afford to lose more taxpaying, law-abiding citizens.

New and upgraded shopping centers, pocket parks, and neighborhood rebranding are all very well and good – and I have supported these efforts.  But we also need to focus on basic issues like safe neighborhoods and crime prevention.  There is a growing feeling that South Euclid is no longer a safe place to live – at least in certain areas.  The events over the weekend demonstrate that this is more than an issue of mere perception.   I don’t blame anyone in South Euclid’s government for what happened.  But how we respond is key.  We have to face these issues head on and combat them.  Chief Neitert must not be selective about which laws he enforces.  He needs to start applying the broken windows theory.  When we tolerate activities such as allowing dogs to roam unleashed, people texting while driving, speeding on residential streets, "music" blasting from car stereos at all hours of the night, aimless loitering - it leads to a general impression of disorder in the community.  There is a fine line between Liberty and Anarchy, and we must not allow South Euclid to cross that line. 

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