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RANT OF THE DAY: Solution for downtown concerns — sex and alcohol?
The under card from Monday night’s Rome City Commission meeting was Broad Street, particularly concerns about recent events, both real and another under continuing review. One was a pretty savage beating that involved knives; the other — at least excessive speeding but perhaps not the incident as originally stated as there is no video from it or witnesses to support it.
The meeting — the first with most commissioners in one room since the pandemic’s early days — started with Ira Levy voicing concerns about speeding, noise and related issues. Levy’s voice needs to be heard. He’s invested millions and countless hours restoring some of the most beautiful buildings in the downtown district and most recently added what’s become a landmark already — loft condos and street-level retail.
There was a nod to refer the matter to the public safety committee for further review. Translation: Don’t expect anything immediately.
And then there was conversation among commissioners and staff about an unnamed business and concerns surrounding it, and some vague language about closing troublesome establishments. They even pipped in via zoom the chair of the Alcohol Control Commission.
So, in a meeting that lasted close to two hours, you hear about speeding, noise and after-hours concerns in the “jewel” of Rome, Ga.
And then there was Mayor Bill Collins’ very public rebuke of Commissioner Mark Cochran who lives downtown and has been proactive in working with his neighbors and merchants about improving it. Like Levy, Cochran the architect has “fingerprints” up and down Broad Street. His creative streak has complimented the great work Levy started in bringing new life to the downtown district.
Cochran campaigned on transforming downtown into a hub for high-tech business, enhanced live-work-play and the need to clean it up.
Cochran has been a visible face downtown as well, walking block after block amid concerns of potential trouble, at times joined by commissioners Bonny Askew and Wendy Davis. Cochran has attended most of the protests downtown in the wake of the George Floyd murder. He’s not been in front of the microphone or on the front page; he’s watched, observed and shared almost play-by-play of said activities with those who follow him on Facebook, especially neighbors and constituents.
For that he was accused of potentially meddling into police affairs by Collins — a statement Cochran vehemently denied during the meeting. Indirectly, he was accused of hurting the statewide image of downtown Rome. Another slap in the face as what he has done is call — repeatedly — for more police protection, especially in light of the voluntary extra taxes downtown property owners pay to invest in the district. (Watch the meeting video, starting at the 1:48 minute mark toward the end and draw your own opinion).
That’s the note that ended Monday night’s commission meeting. What didn’t happen: Directly and immediately addressing the issues that have made safety the leading concern in Floyd County’s most vital neighborhoods.
So we offer a solution: Find a way to “include” safety in two examples where the city acted at warp speed: An alleged sex shop a block off Broad Street and open containers of alcohol.
- Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that a majority of city commissioners were preaching about the ills of open containers of alcohol and indirectly linking that to increased crime and other debauchary? They said additional police would be needed to corral the crowds. The majority couldn’t vote fast enough to reject the bid for a 60-day trial of open containers in the district as it failed by a 5-3 vote. It was the second rejection in three years.
- And then there was the shop with fancy jammies and such hanging in the window on Tribune Street by the courthouse. Well, no sir, that won’t be tolerated. The speed at which the city and the commission acted was likely a municipal record.
So there you go: Find a way to insert enhanced police protection and patrols into one of those issues and see what happens.
The community certainly knows the problems facing the Rome Police Department these days with personnel shortages, increased patrols in potential other hot spots, two active murder cases that have claimed three young victims, increased protests, the whole Forrest statue controversy and related concerns. This town indeed backs the blue. As does Cochran. To imply otherwise is an insult. God forbid we have a city commissioner who acts rather than reacts with the usual bobblehead mentality.
No, in a very difficult 2020, we have multiple concerns and issues. We have changing levels of “normalcy” and downtown safety has risen to become one of those issues.
The solution: Yes, more patrols on Broad Street and if we don’t have enough officers, hire some off duty personnel from the Floyd County Police and sheriff’s office to assist. Use some of those Business Improvement District dollars to do so or reallocate other funds.
This isn’t a time for “lectures” or committees. It is a time for proactive measures to negate a situation before it really develops.
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