Friday, March 13, 2009

guest blog: a letter to neighbors

The following is a post by John Haslinger, a resident of Bonifant Street for thirty years, that appeared on the Seven Oaks-Evanswood Civic Association listserv about last weekend's violence on Ellsworth. He urges his neighbors, many of whom have stopped coming to shop or hang out in Downtown Silver Spring, to keep supporting local businesses as a means of keeping the area safe and vibrant.


....Fear itself!

Mr. Gurwitz said it: "IT'S NOT THAT BAD". Yes, Saturday's concert behavior was way beyond what we can allow but try to remember that even that scary happening ended without anyone hurt. And yes, accountability for bad decision making must be demanded. Take the lessons learned, act and move on, living your lives happily and securely right here in the ever improving Silver Spring.

The general behavior of these kids in town is not nearly as bad as the fearful voices here have made it. I walk into downtown nearly every day. While I hear the occasional loud teenaged voice and witness mild rudeness form time to time, that seems to be the worst of it. And I'm not sure that any of us acted too much differently at that age. Take note while you're there, 99% of the teens are well behaved kids. We, the villagers who collectively share the responsibility for raising this bunch, are the ones who need to be there in numbers to model the appropriate behavior. WE set the norm and avoiding the area only allows the expected behavior to be modified downward.

The answer is not to run to Bethesda with noses in the air. WE stood up to demand that Silver Spring be developed to a scale appropriate for the neighborhood, refusing to accept the Silver Triangle and the MegaMall. WE now need to refuse to accept Saturday night's behavior or anything close to it. WE have to see that the responsible authorities, from the county executive to the cop on the beat, act responsibly for the good of the community.

It was US, the relatively well paid demographic of the surrounding neighborhoods that was the impetus for the private/public infusion of monies that brought the Silver Spring redevelopment. WE need to be the force that keeps it here. Spreading fear about Silver Spring ("it could be you or your child who is the first one murdered in DTSS") and taking our dollars to Bethesda is counterproductive. To retain what we've worked for all these years, BUY LOCAL. To lose it, let the teenagers be the spenders to whom the merchants will cater. Do you want Adega, Ceviche, Borders and McGinty's here? Then support them. It is NOT dangerous for you to walk in downtown; you and your children will be fine. Our being there is what makes it a safe place; not being there destroys it.

There have been many good ideas raised in this discussion and we may disagree on which one are the best ones. But I can't believe that the fearfulness we've heard here is helpful. I can't believe that running from the problem will do anything but diminish the value of our own homes. The problem is relatively small and manageable if we collectively direct ourselves to it. Call your representatives and county leaders and attend community forums to express your concern. Be the squeaky wheel as Alice Gilson suggested. And BE THERE in downtown to show what Silver Spring expects as appropriate behavior.

John Haslinger
Bonifant St.

If you've got something to say, Just Up The Pike is always looking for guest bloggers. While I don't always agree with the statements made, guest blogs offer an opportunity for all sides to be heard on East County issues. Contact me at danreed at umd dot edu if you're interested in contributing.


Thomas Hardman said...

John Haslinger wrote, in-part and elsewhere:

[...] Be the squeaky wheel as Alice Gilson suggested. And BE THERE in downtown to show what Silver Spring expects as appropriate behavior.

This is excellent advice.

Yet it doesn't in any way detract from, but rather lies parallel to, advice to be sure to have plenty of crowd-control on hand next time there's any sort of mass gathering of teens and young adults, especially if the music is of a style long associated with public violence.

Heck, if it was Stryper (feh) giving a show, I'd say to pile on the security.

Then again, only one Metro stop away, the Electrik Maid "neighborhood living room" in Takoma has been showcasing thrash bands for years now, without much (if any) violence.

And unlike DTSS, they don't have massive police presence hanging out looking for an opportunity to use their "mace".

jen said...

The alleged "fear" of Silver Spring reminds me of when I was a kid growing up in a suburb in Connecticut and there was this rabid raccoon panic in our town, and all of the moms were afraid to take out the trash and some would even keep baseball bats near the garage door in case a rabid raccoon made a break for the garage when the garage door was opened. Of course there was no evidence of a rabid raccoon biting a human or a family pet, but the mere prospect that rabid raccoons had been found in the area was sufficient to touch off the panic.

The teenagers on Ellsworth are Silver Spring's rabid raccoons.

Thomas Hardman said...

And here I thought they were Emos. ;)

Good analogy, though.