U. City Council Addresses Concerns In The Loop
| (click for larger version)|
April 25, 2011Following recent problems involving large groups of youths in the Loop, University City officials continue to look for solutions to the issue, including consideration of an ordinance dealing with the blocking of streets and sidewalks. Meanwhile, residents are also continuing to offer suggestions on the subject.
At its April 25 meeting, the University City Council held the first reading of a bill that would amend the section of the city's municipal code relating to public peace and decency.
The amendment would make it illegal for an individual person or a group to stand, loiter or walk on any public sidewalk or street so as to obstruct or unreasonably interfere with the use of that sidewalk or street. A violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
One individual opposed to the bill was Ed Reggi, who asked the council: "Who decides when someone is blocking the sidewalk? It (the ordinance) is vague. Would it be used against a group of 20 Red Hat ladies, who are walking down Delmar, looking at the stars (in the walk of fame)?
"I am also opposed to the $1,000 fine," said Reggi, who said he is a frequent patron of businesses in the Loop.
Reggi, a self-described civil rights activist, said that he lives on Washington Avenue in St. Louis City. That area, like the Loop, is also home to a number of restaurants and shops.
He said in that area, St. Louis police issue warnings to individuals who cause problems and that warnings are kept track of to be used in the event of repeated problems. He suggested to the council, that before they enact any new legislation, they should look at existing ordinances to see if there are any that could be enforced in a stronger manner to address issues. He also suggested adding police substations in the Loop.
Reggi also questioned if the proposed change would lead to civil rights issues by possibly violating free speech laws. He wondered about individuals who were on the sidewalk delivering religious messages or if a group was holding a vigil or a protest, as has happened in the past near the Church of Scientology building, located at the western end of the Loop.
Other concerns and ideas, not involving the new ordinance, were offered by Joe Edwards, who owns several businesses in the University City and St. Louis City portions of the Loop.
"With the curfew issue, I recommend reducing it from 9 to 8 p.m.; it would do wonders for the issues in the Loop," said Edwards. "It would allow the police to address large crowds while it is still light out (in summer months) and still make their jobs safer. Six is way to early. It eliminates the good teenagers who still want to come to the Loop."
There is currently a curfew of 9 p.m. in the Loop for people under the age of 17, unless they are accompanied by an adult. There has been some discussion of making that curfew earlier. Some people have suggested making it as early as 6 p.m. However, Edwards did suggest altering the standard to include 17-year olds, suggesting that it might "lower the temptation for 18 and 19-year olds who are more predatory ... These are reasonable and small measures," Edwards said.
The city council will take the matter up again at a future meeting. Its next meeting is May 9. Regardless of the decision, one council member stressed the importance of the situation to the community.
"I hope we all bear in mind the residents who live in the vicinity of the Loop. This has an impact on them every single week, and we should take into consideration the residents and their quality of life," said 1st Ward Councilman Terry Crow.