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Residents on Richardson Drive have requested that the city build a fence to deter trespassing and vandalism. STOCK IMAGE
Palm Coast Thursday, May 12, 2011 8 years ago

Rule by vocal minority?

by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Residents on Richardson Drive, which is separated by a thin line of trees and underbrush from Hooligan Alley (the basketball court, the restrooms, the playground and the skate park at Ralph Carter Park), are rightfully upset at the trespassing and vandalism that occur on their property.

Those residents have requested that the city build a fence to deter the troublemaking tweens. Recent, impassioned testimonials were enough to sway at least some City Council members, and a town-hall-style meeting resulted in City Manager Jim Landon agreeing to build a 6-foot, chain-link fence.

But let’s slow down.

The Sheriff’s Office, which deals with these things every day and has patrolled the area surrounding the park, says a fence will not help; kids will simply hop or cut the fence.

In addition, Palm Coast city parks staff members say a fence will not solve the problem.

The fence could cost up to $40,000, Landon said. That’s on top of the city’s investment in security cameras at the park.

And at a time of budget austerity, that amount of money could translate into a city staff position being cut.

So why are we doing this again?

Landon said, “It’s the vocal minority. That’s who we respond to.” The residents who participate in the process have the influence, he said.

That is inspiring, on the one hand: It’s democracy.

But on the other hand, it’s frightening if a small group admittedly acting out of fear can have more influence on elected officials than professionals and law enforcement officers experienced in dealing with these matters.

Even the residents at Richardson Drive should be troubled by this. It is not in their best interest for the city to set a precedent to spend money simply because people complain long enough.

(See the letter by Bill McGuire below for another example of this.)

Instead of building a fence, the Sheriff’s Office and the city should work together to propose alternate solutions. Has anyone attempted to talk with the parents of the young people who are causing the problems, for example?

If the city builds a fence, a year from now we’ll be talking about how to repair the fence, or whether we should build an even bigger one. As frustrating and frightening as it may be to have trespassers in their yards, the residents should not be satisfied with a Band-Aid: They should petition for a true solution that the city and the Sheriff’s Office believe in, and not one that officials are accepting simply to silence the vocal minority.

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