published Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

City Council hears plans for Coolidge Park

by Cliff Hightower
The Tennessee River at Coolidge Park. Staff File Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
The Tennessee River at Coolidge Park. Staff File Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Audio clip

City Council meeting, part one - 03/22/2011

Audio clip

City Council meeting, part two - 03/22/2011

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd told council members Tuesday that he has no place to put children who could break a new rule by being at Coolidge Park after hours without adult supervision.

And he told the council he needed any help.

“If you can help where to put these kids, I need it,” he said. “Because I’m not getting any.”

The City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday night on first reading of a new ordinance that would require any child under the age of 18 to be accompanied by an adult at Coolidge Park. Councilman Andraé McGary voted no.

But more questions remained than were answered as the council debated how to change the law and just how far it should go.

Dodd said officials at the juvenile detention center questioned whether the facility has enough room for the children caught in the park after hours.

Council members also had questions Tuesday about whether the ordinance should be limited to just Coolidge Park where a shooting occurred Saturday night during the scene of a 300-person flash mob. The incident comes just a year after another incident at the popular riverfront green space left five people wounded.

“I really have a problem with what we’re doing right now,” Councilman Russell Gilbert said. “If we’re going to do it, do it for all areas, not just here.”

Councilwoman Carol Berz agreed, saying what is drafted for Coolidge Park could be a model for the rest of the city’s green spaces and there are “implications” about just picking one area.

“I think you have to be careful of anything that smacks of class legislation,” she said.

The council members have one more week to redraw the ordinance into a more suitable format they could vote on and approve.

Most council members agreed Tuesday they would like to know logistics of where the children would be kept while the police are looking for parents. They also wondered if they could expand the ordinance beyond Coolidge Park and also if there could be changes within the ordinance and signs requiring “parental or a legal guardian” supervising rather than adult.

Berz said an 18-year-old could say a youth was in their supervision under the law as written.

Dodd said afterward the city was looking at changing the sign and the ordinance.

Councilman Peter Murphy asked Dodd if he wanted the ordinance expanded.

“If this is a tool you need, I’m going to give it to you,” Murphy said. “If this is a tool you need elsewhere, I’m going to give it to you.”

Dodd said he would welcome anything that helps deter violence in the city.

“If we can do it in every park in the city, that’s fine by me,” he said.


The Chattanooga City Council will have one more week to redraft a city ordinance limiting minors from being in Coolidge Park without adult supervision. The council will vote on the second reading of the ordinance 6 p.m. Tuesday at the City Council building on Lindsay Street.

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SmartOne said...

This may seem somewhat nit-picky considering the subject matter of the article, but I wish people would stop using the term "flash mob" as a description of these occurrences. A flash mob, by definition, is a group of people that gather for a matter of seconds/minutes for the purposes of satire or entertainment meant to amuse and/or confuse those around them.

An example of a flash mob would be if these youths had gathered, did the chicken dance for 60 seconds, and then dispersed. That is a flash mob. What happened outside of the UTC library before exams in spring of 2009, that was a flash mob (albeit, one that was spoiled by a few stupid students and ended poorly).

If you want to read on:

On a more serious note, posting signs would likely have little effect in deterring violence. All this will do is move these problems from Coolidge Park to another part of town. What are we going to do to violators? Slap them on the wrist and pass out fines to the parents? There needs to be a realistic look taken at the problems this city faces, gang-related or otherwise. Whatever the solution is, I don't know. More police? Intervention in the lives of our youth? Cameras? All I know is that the mayor, along with other city officials, have promoted growth Chattanooga, but seem to be too focused on the business aspect and have paid too little attention to the social issues facing this flourishing city.

March 23, 2011 at 2:28 a.m.
mrredskin said...

same s***, new year.

March 23, 2011 at 7:37 a.m.
rking said...

I don't really understand why there is such emphasis on having under-aged kids at the park without supervision. Even if their gardian was there, whose going to stop those individuals who are 18 and older who go to these same places to "handle their business"? Most of the time these under-aged kids are accompanied by someone who is older. As a matter of fact, most of the time the younger person is chosen, by the older, to do the dirty work while they sit back and watch the results. I have a 15 year-old son and by the grace of God he is a decent kid, but I have a strong desire to work with youth who are troubled. I grew up in the projects and made it out. What can I do to help stop the violence?

March 23, 2011 at 8:22 a.m.
bpqd said...

I haven't visited the Juvenile Detention Center since the mid-90s; the facility I saw looked like a good minimum to medium security building designed to hold a few dozen, not hundreds, of prisoners.

Having worked in facilities which hold hundreds of prisoners, I don't think local politicians have anticipated just what kind of resources it takes to capture hundreds of people at a time, hold them, and transport them.

Based on my direct experience in large prisons, I assure you it costs millions of dollars to maintain that type of capability. The blithe attitude towards arresting large groups of people speaks more to inexperience than effective government. There are many problems with the proposed courses of action, from hypothetical legal problems to basic mechanics. In government leadership it's often best not to promise punishment in advance.

The main, leading action that will be effective in this situation will be for people to lead themselves into doing what's good and what's right.

While I'm not familiar with what's the answer for all of their problems, I thought it was telling, and painful, that one young man was quoted as saying that they would fire on someone else out of boredom. Having spent some years of my life at war, I found that quote telling, and saddening. In civilization the constructive response should win.

I don't know what the answer is, but I think we can all see what the answer is not. No one needs to be shooting about anything. These same young men getting into trouble by exercising their power could be leading themselves, their families and their community to betterment. Maybe there's some way to reach them and show them that they're good enough to do that leading today.

We've had some bad incidents, but I'm confident we have plenty of good in us to do better if we try. As a young man, I found the best way for me to keep out of trouble was to keep my hands busy with building. Maybe try that; or, something else that we see that works. I have faith that we can do better.

March 23, 2011 at 9:28 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Mayor Littlefield Unveils New Police Cars and Police Officers to Stop the Chattanooga Crime Wave.

March 23, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
DoN2Much said...

I agree with Smartone on this matter as far as these individuals moving to other parts of town to do dumb acts of violence. there is little for a lot of these kids to do here in the city that they can enjoy and i know that a lot of bad kids have ruined it for the good ones but when black individuals do try to get together to do fun things the police do tend to confuse them with the ones that are corrupt and looking for trouble and that is where the profiling comes in so it is hard for some kids to enjoy the city without all the problems behind it. If there were more parents pushing their kids to play recreational activities like when i was growing up kids wouldnt have time to be out doing things because they are bored. I truly blame the social media for a lot b/c kids do not go outside anymore and enjoy laughter with one another instead tv, music, and much more are giving them thoughts and ideas to do ignorant things to one another and i honestly blame parents for being "Dumb to the fact" that you know your kids arent doing positive things in their lives yet you turn a blind eye on the matter and then when they are dead or in jail your either slumped over crying saying he was a good child or your in court arguing with a judge saying your child didnt do something when you know they wasnt right to begin with. You just dont want to except responsibility. Also all these kids need to stop having babies, how can a child raise a child its not going to happen. I feel that a fine to parents isnt good but what would prompt more parents to be involved in their childs mistakes and lives would be if a law was passed on kids that are involved in a situation that are either living with a parent or guardian have that parent or guardian get the same penalties as the crimal that way more parents will make sure their child is not out doing things that can cost them their jobs or home which will make the parents more responsible for their kids. I am sure this will alter a lot of concerns of these parents that feel they dont care what their kids do b/c it is not their problem when in fact it is. Also any one who is involved in a gang or has gang ties should be put in something like child molestors and post them on websites all over the city and maybe even make a law that if you are in a gang, gang ties, or gang crimes be punished even if they are affiliated b/c this will keep them from doing anything in the future i think and will make a lot of kids think twice about joining when they know if you are caught you will be punished severely... we need to just get tougher to where when ppl her this they will be like nah i am not getting 10 or 20yr just b/c i wanna be in a gang i know i would if i knew the repercussions before hand... just my thoughts

March 23, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.
cnjamcat said...

  I am dismayed that the mayor and city council want to punish all the young people of Chattanooga for a crime which was committed by a person over the age of 18. Discriminating against young citizens won’t make the park safer. It makes it look like the government is doing something about the problem but really this does nothing to stop the actual criminals.

  However, this new law criminalizes perfectly normal behavior. This makes me feel like my entire family is unwelcome in Coolidge Park and perhaps all of downtown. This vague new rule does not explain what supervision is required and how that’s different from current laws. Is a parent being in the park enough? Must parents always be at their child’s side, even if that child is a young adult? If I allow my teenagers to play ball in the park’s field while I take my youngest child to ride the carousel could our family be charged with breaking the law? Now my teenagers can be harassed for the simple act of existing in a public place. I find this far more disturbing than an annual “flash mob” which is hyped in the media.

  I know this law isn’t aimed at families with involved parents but it isn’t aimed at the criminals either. There are already laws against violence and guns. When I’ve been in Coolidge Park, I’ve seen high school students jogging and groups of teens playing Frisbee - banning them is not going to stop gang activity. It might even encourage gangs if the “good kids” are forced to clear out. If the city council really wants to make the park safer, they would ban males between the ages of 18 and 30. Imagine if the signs read, “No unsupervised men over the age of 18 will be permitted.”

  I agree something needs to be done about violent gangs but discriminating against youth is not the solution. If we make it clear to our young citizens that they’re not welcome in the city, what does that mean for Chattanooga’s future? Turning teenagers into scapegoats for the violence perpetrated by legal adults does not help our city.

March 23, 2011 at 2:21 p.m.
gibbypoo said...

There's already signs that prohibit firearms in the park and, yet, this still happens. Putting up a few signs with vague intentions and an undermanned police force isn't going to deter these people anymore than the laws currently in place.

Instead of robbing the honest, law-abiding person from defending himself, perhaps it's time to honor our LEGAL RIGHT to bear arms as a means of protecting ourselves from those that would seek to harm us.

March 23, 2011 at 3:35 p.m.
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