The Charlotte City Council has a lot of important issues on its plate, and its members are elected to take care of them. Sometimes, though, like all legislative bodies, they waste their time on issues over which they have very little control, in order to give voters the impression that they’re doing something valuable.
Yesterday, council wasted time galore, as it finally took up Councilman Patrick Cannon’s illusory solution to uptown violence during big events: tightening the curfew on teenagers. Council voted 9-1 to approve the new curfew hours, which go into effect December 15. Kids 12 and under will now have a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., every day; kids 13 to 15 will have to be off the streets from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., every day.
Cannon, who is African American, came up with this latest brainstorm following a late-night uptown shooting in May during the Speed Street celebration, which was heavily attended by young African Americans. The problem here is that both the shooter and the victim were in their 20s, which makes the new curfew’s relevance to the May incident — on a scale of 1-10 — about, ohh, 1. In addition, Councilman Michael Barnes, who cast the lone vote against the new curfew, rightly pointed out that the current curfew is very rarely enforced anyhow, and the new curfew ordinance doesn’t require stricter enforcement. Barnes’ argument was confirmed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Vicki Foster who told the Charlotte Observer that police mostly use the curfew ordinance during “special events.” “We don’t do random enforcement,” said Foster. Mayor Foxx also expressed doubts about a tighter curfew, saying that it won't fix what he described as "deeper issues" with the city's youth.
As we’ve said before, the two most obvious factors in Charlotte’s occasional uptown melees are aggressive young black guys and aggressively ill-tempered cops. Both of those were factors in May — along with the city having let the Transit Center become a collection of problems waiting to happen. The powers that be, however, chose to place almost exclusive blame for everything on the parents of young kids that were out past curfew — those parents’ poverty and political powerlessness always make such easy targets, don't you know, and it's been some time (if ever) since Cannon has had to deal with those circumstances. Again, however, the curfew and its enforcement had ZERO to do with the shooting, as both men involved in it were well past curfew age.
The underlying reason for the “tough” new curfew, it seems to me, is that the white uptown business establishment completely freaks the hell out every time a large group of young African Americans comes uptown all at once — as if those kids have a right to congregate in public spaces like regular citizens and such. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
I’ve often thought council meetings could use a good dose of truth serum. If the serum was working yesterday, you’d have heard a more honest appraisal of what the city’s leaders see as the real problem: “Who do these kids think they are, crashing our nice uptown? Heck, we've spent oodles of money trying to make the area attractive to wealthy tight-asses, and those damned black kids are ruining a perfectly good, neat-o fantasy of what a city’s core should be. This insult to our white bread world shall not stand!"