Open Forum: Progress . . . problems
Thanks once again, Winchester Star, for sensationalizing yet another story to sell news. This one has major impacts on many businesses downtown and you’ve turned it into a mockery. Last month, you printed a three-year tally on downtown police calls and made it seem the nightlife was the cause — a total misrepresentation of the facts.
I’ve lived downtown almost all my life, and lived on the mall for three years. I’ve run a business on the mall and now run one a block away. I’ve worked and attended every social function that’s occurred there. For these reasons alone, this makes me more of an expert than some property owner you interviewed who doesn’t even go downtown.
First, every law-breaking category you stated went down yearly except disturbances and vandalism. From your paragraph in the story, most of the vandalism was spray paint. I’m sorry, but I have never seen a bar patron with a spray can in his pocket.
Next, the noise complaints have been generated from the new dwellings that have been recently completed on the mall and surrounding blocks. How loud are my surroundings? These venues are my clients, and I personally am the noise-maker on occasion. Since the new city noise ordinances were established, every bar has bought a decibel meter and has handled all problems internally. The few complaints have come directly from tenants living across from a few of these locations. What I really mean is: Tenants have more than one room, so do they have to sit by the window and complain? Plus, if we want to argue sound problems, how come no one has brought up the railroad?
To make it worse, The Star tallied in downtown assaults and fights into the story. The downtown mall, since it was created, has always had a certain presence of people on it. They will be there forever. Nor can you blame this on the masses. These people will do what they do. They get charged and processed accordingly. The police already have a big presence in the area.
The final thing to address is the new event schedule. Some local businesses benefit, some don’t. Dario Savarese needs to learn to incorporate all on the mall into events and not just the area convenient to his festivals.
Second, these businesses need to adapt to the new setup. Some have. Move a tent outside your business to better promote it. Have a tent in the vendors area, get more involved It's complicated, but not out of reach.
For every step of progress, there will be problems. We are handling them as they come, and the downtown is growing like it should have years ago. Do not stifle this growth. Many people are depending on it. We have an area to be proud of. I see this in the amount of walkers visiting daily. Those people have finally come. Let downtown grow and strive. Don’t kill it with bad publicity, more security, and new laws to keep local establishments from growing.
Bryan Fleming resides in Winchester.