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:
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.
Chris Baker, and each of the undersigned persons
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