Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Letter to Councilperson King

Evidently this is my year to dabble in politics. I've already posted a letter I wrote to the campaign of Andrew Horne, who, despite my eventual support, failed to win the Democratic nomination in the race for our seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now I'm posting a different sort of letter.

My neighborhood has been having a serious problem with people who use the park across the street from my house on the weekends. Fed up, I was asked to write a strong letter to our Councilperson, Jim King, to try to address the situation. The letter is now circulating our neighborhood collecting signatures, and should be sent out tomorrow or the next day. Since it is how I spent my writing time today, and since I'm proud of the writing in it, I've decided to post it here. So, here it is:

Councilperson King,

I am writing this letter to you at the request of several other persons in my neighborhood, each of whom share my concerns and have signed their names to this letter.

I live with my wife and our 18 month old son across the street from George Rogers Clark Park. As you know, the park is a wonderful facility, and can be rented for private events at a very reasonable price. Living across the street from such a lovely park has been a priceless treasure for our family.

However, of late this public space has been put to ill use by many of the private parties which rent it out. To clearly communicate what I mean by this, let me give you a brief picture of the average Saturday for my family this summer.

Most Saturdays a crowd gathers at the facilities at the park at roughly ten o’clock in the morning. They unpack their cars, and begin to set up for a party or a picnic or a family reunion. Along with the colorful balloons and, of course, food and drink, they also set up something which is far less pleasant: a sound system.

Just before lunch each Saturday the walls of my house begin to shake as a deafening drone pulsates from the newly set up loud speakers. My dog begins to whine, and scurries into the back yard to hide, cowering and whimpering, under the back deck. My two cats hide under the bed, in physical pain from the noise pollution emitted just across the street from our house.

My son can’t go into our front yard without grabbing his ears and crying, so loud is the relentlessly blaring noise from the park. In short, our home is, each weekend, under siege, assailed by the sonic blasts of those who do not care or do not understand the impact that their actions have on the quality of our life. Most Saturdays, if we wish to have any peace at all, we are forced from our home for most of the day. When we return home in the evening, hoping to put our young son to bed, there is no guarantee that the noise pollution will have ceased. It often, in fact, continues late into the night.

I believe that people should and do have the right to peacefully assemble, and celebrate together, in a public space. But I also believe that one person’s rights end where another person’s begin; and that the right of families and friends to celebrate each other in the park should not encroach on my right to live in peace in my own home. When someone rents a shelter in the park, they do not rent my living room, and they do not have a right to perform music which invades my living room and disrupts my household.

I do not harbor any private prejudice, but I would be remiss if I allowed the fear of somehow being labeled racist keep me from sharing another serious concern: not only is the volume of the music excessive to the point of being harmful, the content of the music is unfit for public performance. Much of what is played at these gatherings contains not only profanity, but also sexual and interpersonal violence. Women are often treated as objects or worse, and violent crime and thuggish posturing are glorified. While I do not believe that speech should be regulated for content, I do believe that the government has and interest in and obligation to protect children from certain forms of expression. Simply put, it is not appropriate for much of the music which is played at these gathering to be performed in public places near children.

If something cannot be expressed on network television or on the radio, for fear that children might hear it and be in some way harmed by it, that something should certainly not be permitted mere feet from a playground.

Simply put, this is impacting the quality of life in our neighborhood, and many of us are upset about it. I and others have often called the police to complain about the noise, but we have thus far had little relief. I don’t know if the police fail to show up, or are simply ineffective at preventing this disruption of the peace. What I do know is that there is growing frustration and resentment in our community, creating a potentially volatile situation.

I, along with all of the undersigned parties, propose the following:

1. Signs should be placed in the park (George Rogers Clark Park) expressly forbidding excessive noise.

2. All parties who wish to rent the facilities at the park should be reminded that loud music is expressly forbidden, and that they will lose their privilege to rent the facilities in future should they play loud music.

3. If anyone, while using the facilities at the park, violates the city’s noise ordinance, they should be cited for their violation.

4. Police patrols in the neighborhood should be stepped up on weekends, with police being clearly informed of the community’s concern about the level of noise in the park.

We do not wish to do anything to take away from the many public uses of the wonderful park in our neighborhood, but neither do we any longer wish to be under siege each weekend. Simply put, something must be done, and we sincerely hope that you see that our concerns are addressed.

Respectfully Yours,

Chris Baker, and each of the undersigned persons


Anonymous said...

Why do you worry about being labeled a racist for voicing your concerns about the content of the lyrics of the music? Do you believe that only one group of people listens to music that is sexual and degrading toward women - or do you assume that only one race is offended by music that is sexual and degrading toward women?

Princess Pinky said...

Yeah, crazy rednecks aren't the only one's who glorify mistreating their women!

Tom said...

You should import some of the Dayton Police. I got a noise ordinance violation there for playing acoustic guitar!

Sandalstraps said...


Unlike many blogs, I allow anonymous comments here because I do not wish to restrict discussions to only people who have signed up on Blogger. However, because many people one the Internet and in the blogosphere us anonymity to abuse others, I ask that all anonymous commenters please in some way identify themselves.

I assume that you are new here, or are new to commenting here, and so are not aware of the past discussions here and elsewhere about the ethics of anonymity. As such, and because your comment (unlike many anonymous comments) is not overtly offensive, I will at least for the moment allow your comment to remain. You will help me take you more seriously if you:

a.) come back to defend your comment after I address the substance (or lack thereof) in it, and

b.) when you do come back, provide some form of self identification.

Conversations, if they are to be constructive, require both trust and honesty. Complete anonymity detracts from both, keeping us from trusting you and your intentions, and perhaps keeping you from being completely honest, since there are no social repercussions for dishonesty if you cannot be identified.

As to the substance of your comment, I find your question to be both uncharitable and dishonest, looking very much like the logical fallacy called a complex question. While the standard form of complex question is more like

So, tell me, when did you stop beating your wife?

your question shares with that form of complex question a limiting of the response options available to the person ansering the question to only damning ones.

To the standard form of complex question, any answer I provide is an admission of guilt; and probably a false one, as there is no reason a priori to assume that I ever beat my wife. To your question, again, if I actually answer the question as stated I only condemn myself, and do so dishonestly.

It is neither the case that

1. I believe that only one group of people listen to music that is sexual and degrading toward women, or

2. I assume that only one race is offended by such music.

Additionally, there is no reason to assume either of those from the context of my letter. There is reason to assume that, as I state,

I harbor no hidden prejudice,

and, from the subtext, I am deeply concerned about being labelled "racist" for complaining about the content of the particular form of music being played in the park across the street from my house.

This, however, is where context helps. I will admit that not all of the context needed to fully interpret the content of the paragraph in question is in the letter. However, the absense of such written context does not give a thoughtful reader liscence to assume the worst.

The issue of the content of the music in question is, as the letter indicates, a senstive one. This is because, as everyone familiar with the situation (and the letter assumes a degree of familiarity) knows, the people renting the shelter in the park for parties which feature loud music are, as best as I can tell, exclusively black; and the residents of the offended neighborhood are almost exclusively white. Additionally, there is in the growing tension of this situation a certain lingering and latent racial tension.

Also, the music in question is hip hop, and as anyone who has studied the concerns raised about certain forms of hip hop (what was called when I was growing up "gangsta rap"), the race card is often played in disputes about content.

It is quite possible that when many people in my neighborhood complain about the hip hop being played a certain lingering latent racism factors into their complaint. As the particular paragraph which bothered you overtly states, such racism plays no role in my decision to relay that criticism to our Councilperson.

If you read thoughfully and interpreted with even a moderate degree of charity, I would not have to explain such a clear paragraph to you. But, that I have to explain such a paragraph to you is why I included the paragraph in the first place. When the race card can be brought out at any moment to stifle a constructive conversation about a social problem, it is best to bring it out up front and on your own terms, anticipating that someone who does not wish to hear what you have to say will try at some point to use it against you.

Amy said...

I agree with anonymous. As your argument stands, because you critiquing content rather than genre, you can accurately say that you are as concerned about exposing your son to Toby Keith as 50 Cent. However, by adding the race disclaimer, you are raising an unnecessary question about your own motivations. If you retain it, you need to acknowledge in the later the was race politics are infiltrating the discussion in your neighborhood; Otherwise, I woudl cut it as a non sequitur and something that undermines your own argument.
Good luck with all this!

Sandalstraps said...


Good to hear from you again!

I hate to disagree with you, but as your comment stands I don't think that you really agree with anonymous, as I hear the two of you saying very different things. I hear you offering very constructive criticism, which I will take to heart. I hear anonymous calling me a racist for being concerned with being called a racist.

It is quite possible that I will remove the racial comment from my letter - this is why I've posted a first draft here. However, if I do so it will be because, as you pointed out, it distracts from my argument, rather than because I agree with anonymous that it means that I either think that only black people listen to music that is degrading to women or that only white people are offended by such music.

Amy said...

I guess I'm offering anonymous a little bit more grace than necessary - It's easy to come off as snippy and accusatory when you're not quite expressing your criticism well enough...

Speaking of which, I met Viola from the Trinity post about a week and a half ago! She was very kind and gentle in person - but I'm waiting to see what she wrote about the event we were both at. It turns out she has a pattern of using the "h" word - She's branded two of my friends and comrades in the PC (USA) with it for other, smaller works they've written. Sounds like it's a pattern...

Amy said...

gosh! looks like Amy's lost her ability to spell! sorry about the typos in that first comment... was rushing through it at the end of my lunch at work

Anonymous said...

Hi, I live in the neighborhood, and just sent an email to the metro parks complaining about the basketball players at George Rogers Park. I decided to do a google to see if it was bothering anyone else, and found your blog.
I have just begun taking my son (13 months old) to the park and have been repeatedly offended by the profanity the players use. In addition to sometimes having very loud music using vulgarity and profanity that I don't want my son to hear.
I don't feel comfortable saying anything to the basketball players because I am just one lone woman with my young son, and there are usually 10-20 young men playing.
I can't imagine what it must be like on weekends. I am a couple of streets over from the park, so I don't hear any that.
I'm saddened by the lack of respect the basketball players show for the families and children that are using the park. It may not sound like a big complaint, but it really creates a non-family atmosphere.
Did you ever receive a response from the councilperson?

Sandalstraps said...


I share your concern about the basketball courts. I play basketball, and used to go to those courts to participate in the games. But as the years go by, the games there seem to grow less and less about basketball, and more and more about a reckless and dangerous culture, which has too often infected the culture of basketball.

To answer your question, I never sent the letter. I circulated it as a petition around the neighborhood, and by the time I got it back we were no longer having regular problems with noise.

Sensing that the problem had gone away as quickly as it had arisen - and also sharing the concerns of some readers here about the specific language of a particular paragraph - I didn't send the letter.

We might (or might not, depending on how it develops) be able to blame Jim King for holding up the new, more comprehensive smoking ban, but we certainly can't blame him for not responding to a letter I didn't end up sending him.