Tuesday, October 10

Helmets, Bicycles and the Skate Park

In its infinite wisdom, a few years ago the city decided to build a very elaborate concussion machine across the railroad tracks from Gibson Park. A great amount of public money was spent, and like the White Water Elephant, we own it and are obligated to manage it correctly.

For this reason, I was both pleased (that the paper was bringing the issue to the forefront) and frustrated (that the city is abdicating its responsibility) by the publication of this article in yesterday's Trib.

Now, before I come across as a big fuddy-duddy, let me say that I think that the Skate Park is a very nice asset for the city. If managed correctly, it provides youth an avenue for both exercise and entertainment and creates an incentive for both tourists and potential residents. It would have been nice, however, if private enterprise had built this asset on its own dime and liability risk.

We do now own it, however. Soon after its completion, the city began mandating the use of helmets and other protective equipment at the park. Violation of this ordinance is sufferable by payment of a $65 ticket.

However, as a short visit to the skate park will readily make obvious, that ordinance is regularly flouted. Kids usually have a police scanner on hand; when the police drive by, they sit down for a few minutes.

I brought up this issue at the Neighborhood Council 7 meeting last night. I was told that the police were told to enforce the helmet mandate after the fact, and that they were not doing so in a kind of not invented here mentality. For those of you that feel that I blindly back the the GF Police Department, take note: the Police shouldn't have the option of choosing which ordinances to enforce.

As a community, we are exposing ourselves to significant liability by not sufficiently enforcing the helmet mandate. Some kid is going to get hurt, and we will all be faced with increased taxes after they win their liability case.

Now, I know that resources are limited. I also balk at paying a city employee to do nothing but sit around the skate park handing out tickets. However, it does not require a fully-trained Police Officer to hand out tickets to kids not wearing helmets. I submit to you that it doesn't even take a city employee.

City parking enforcement is a contracted activity. There is no reason that the city could not let a contract to a firm that could station a guard at the park.

Here is the really controversial part; that guard's salary could be based upon the tickets he or she writes. If the guard's firm gets paid, say, $20 for each $65 ticket, the whole deal could be revenue neutral.

What say you?


GeeGuy said...

I would submit that an ordinance that is not enforced is worse than no ordinance at all. We acknowledge the risk, then do nothing about it. A plaintiff's lawyer's dream.

I think that the whole idea of the skatepark as a 'park' is wrong. I assumed it would be enclosed and would require some sort of admission fee like a public pool. Thus, there could be rules that could be enforced.

Treasure State Jew said...

GG; I would submit that you are 100% correct. How can the Police "choose" to not enforce an ordinance? Or to enforce it only occassionally?

After spending $1 Million on the thing, I don't think it would have been ridiculous to charge admission. However, it would be very difficult to turn back the clock on that decision.

However, it should be staffed by someone who can give out tickets and enforce the ordinance. Those tickets could easily pay that person's salary.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the city provide lifeguards at the city managed pools? Yes? Then the city should be consistent: staation lifeguards at the skate park too! The lifeguards can double as ticket writers, and carry sidearms for personal safety. Logically then the city will probably need to charge admission, or risk a lawsuit from disgruntled swimmers who are charged to use city owned recreation facilities. I forgot to mention the need for a security fence ASAP. Good luck on this one, TSJ!