Tuesday, May 19, 2009

safe silver spring summit recap

Don't forget to vote in today's District 4 Special Election! To find your polling place, check out the Board of Elections website.

The following is a recap of last Saturday's Safe Silver Spring Summit by former County Council candidate/former youth-vote director for the Obama campaign/local activist/friend of JUTP Hans Riemer. (Longest introduction ever, right?) A response to recent violence in Downtown, the summit was hosted by Prezco, Councilmember Valerie Ervin's office and the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.

If you attended the Safe Silver Spring Summit and want to share your thoughts, post a comment or e-mail me at justupthepike at gmail dot com.

I attended the Save Silver Spring Summit and participated in the workshop about how to make Ellsworth and downtown more welcoming to everyone. We were lucky to have two young people from the Gandhi Brigade share their thoughts and then we proceeded through a hearty work session about problems and solutions to community concerns.

It was an inspiring session and a lot of us felt like this specific conversation would lead to solutions for the problem.

Some of the key points that we walked away with:

1. The physical space shortage has to be addressed. With the loss of the turf, there is a much smaller space for teens to hang out. This compression of the urban space has made it more difficult for everyone. We need new space downtown that is very loosely structured, like the turf was, and can provide a setting for a wide range of different people. It is possible that the Civic Center will provide a solution but we are not clear on that yet. But if we don't find a solution for the physical space we may not see success with other tools that we hope to use.

2. Education campaigns about community standards. We need to define what is acceptable as a standard of civility and then find some innovative ways to educate our different audiences on terms they can relate to. For example, we might have young people create graffiti posters that can be posted, and videos that can be shown in the theaters and online.

3. Organizational solutions will help. We talked about creating a structure for young people to take ownership and responsibility of the community space that we share, and to have an ongoing conversation with residents and the county. Perhaps it could be a youth-police liaison group, or a subset of the Citizens Advisory Board, the Town Center, or some such (we weren't clear on that). These efforts would have to be marketed effectively to young people in the area, beyond usual channels.

4. Policy enforcement is also important. We talked about increasing "red shirt" patrols as well as addressing any legal and enforcement issues that might stem from Ellsworth's status as a public-private partnership. Peterson noted that in the past, "Codes of Conduct" were rejected by the County. It was also noted that adult men are sometimes the worst offenders downtown.


marylandgangs said...

Many years ago when Downtown Silver Spring was just an idea, I said repeatedly, to anyone who would listen, that we needed recreation for young people downtown.

Again and again, I was shot down. The reason given? That would draw all the poor black kids from DC. So-called progressive people actually said that.

When DTSS was being planned, the needs of kids was simply not part of the conversation...not for very long anyway. It wasn't a priority, either by the powers that be or by the community.

Could that be the reason that everything kids ever loved downtown was only "interim" and ultimately destroyed?

The East of Maui Skatepark, the Interim Playground, the turf, skating on Ellsworth -- all were taken away.

And even after 935 Bonifant was demolished and Montgomery County spent a small fortune on leveling and sodding that field, making sure to make it nice for someone, did anyone consider doing something creative for kids there?

I know it's important for doggies to have a place to poo, but I think kids are a little bit more important.

I'm just saying. I mean, the doggies do like that field.

Thomas Hardman said...

You're talking about many years ago. I seriously doubt that Ike Leggett would sit still for someone suggesting that it would be bad to do something for County folks because it would bring in black kids from DC.

And it's not just Mr Leggett: I can't think of anyone who would object to "black" kids from DC. But I can think of a lot of folks who would object to anything that attracts lawless folks from anywhere.

But it's still true: we need more and better facilities for all of the kids, and there are so many subcultures -- let's not simplify everything down to race, okay? -- that what you might build today for one youth subculture, might be an unused white elephant five years from now. Or it might become the home turf of another youth subculture, using it in unintended ways and excluding those for whom the original facility was intended.

And as to people in Red Shirts... the more people in town who are warring with the Bloods, the more people are likely to be taking shots (cheap or otherwise) at the people trying to bring a little order.

WashingtonGardener said...

East of Maui Skatepark closed due to insurance and other rising business costs while use and revenue remained flat. Talk to the owner (he has a skatepark out at the shore), like I did and you'll find the County had nothing to do with his closing. This was not something "taken away" from SS kids. If it had made enough money and been a successful business, it would still exist here in SS today.

marylandgangs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marylandgangs said...

I deleted my last comment because I didn't like the way I said it. Too bitchy.

But here are the facts.

The East of Maui Skatepark was built specifically to be an interim park. It was never intended to be there permanently, because from its beginning, it was known that downtown would ultimately have one of two things -- a giant mall, or some other kind of walkable shopping area.

Everything that was built downtown at that point, the skatepark, the Interim Playground (with the sand volley ball courts), the concert stage, and the kiddie play area, were only intended to be downtown temporarily.

And my whole point is that in terms of planning for permanent facilities and amenities, it seems that very little thought and consideration has been given to teens in terms of them being equal members of our community, with needs that are equally as important as those of adults.

The only part of the redevelopment that can at least in part be considered something that's for teens, will be the ice-skating rink. And we all know how many black and Hispanic kids ice skate.

Ellen said...

And just who is going to pay for this special "space" that the youth want? It costs money to create and maintain space, and from what I've heard, these youth just want to come down to Silver Spring and "hang out." They want the local economy to support their desire for a place, but don't want to support the local economy by spending money in the shops and restaurants.