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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Before fining parents, make them escort their kids in Circle Centre

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Last week, in his State of the City speech, Mayor Greg Ballard channeled his inner Marine declaring he wouldn’t “let a few wannabe thugs infect the heart of our city.”

I thought he was referring to those lining their pockets through city sweetheart deals at taxpayers’ expense.

Instead the mayor was talking about mostly African-Americans, some young adults, some teens, involved in recent violent acts downtown.

In its 16 years, Circle Centre mall, like malls nationwide, has had problems with youths hanging out at the mall, which has sometimes resulted in fights inside and more serious violence outside the mall. Now, Mayor Ballard wants to levy financial penalties against parents whose kids come downtown and misbehave.

Three Indianapolis mayors and scores of community leaders have wrung their hands and bemoaned the recurring problems of non-adult misbehavior at Circle Centre. But, searching the Internet preparing this column, I discovered a simple solution; one available for 15 years.

In 1996, the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the nation’s largest mall, instituted a Parental Escort Policy which declares “on Friday and Saturday evenings youth under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older from 4 p.m. until close.”

More than 70 malls in cities like Cincinnati, Charlotte, Dayton, St. Louis, Norfolk, even Tupelo, Miss., have instituted similar policies.

When Mall of America created its Parental Escort Policy, it was owned by – wait for it – Simon Malls, the folks headquartered downtown who own Circle Centre.

Simon doesn’t own that mall anymore, but Dan Jasper, Mall of America’s PR director told me that their policy “has proven to be very effective at minimizing youth-related problems as well as parents dropping off their kids.”

Like Circle Centre, Mall of America had problems “being used by hundreds of families as a ‘babysitter.’”

Malls feared restricting youths, said Jasper, “would hurt customer traffic and cut into teen sales – a large part of a shopping mall’s business.” But Jasper told me the Minneapolis mega mall’s traffic and sales revenue “increased after implementing the policy.”

It’s been “an effective tool” said Jasper.

Simon, who created the policy, the first of its kind in the country, doesn’t think it’s needed here.

Les Morris, Simon Mall’s PR chief, doesn’t think a Parental Escort Policy “is the right strategy” for Circle Centre. “We don’t want to deny young people coming to the mall,” Morris told me.

Instead Simon prefers to focus on teens’ “behavior and the expectation that youth will behave.”

Morris said Simon feels that its existing on site police force, plus Circle Centre’s heralded Mall Moms and Dads program solves the problem. Morris also pointed out a Parental Escort Policy would be troublesome with Indy’s youth conventions like FFA.

Morris reminded me that there has never been a serious instance of violence inside Circle Centre.

I talked with a veteran of Circle Centre’s Moms/Dads patrol. “I wish Simon had a Parental Escort Policy,” they said. “It would cut down on the problem of parental dropoffs.”

I agree. Mayor Ballard’s plan for monetary penalties makes a good campaign soundbite, but it’s fraught with legal problems. Interviewed on WTLC-AM (1310’s) “Afternoons with Amos,” city prosecutor Helen Marschal admitted as much.

Though Marschal claimed reckless youth behavior in areas outside downtown would be scrutinized, no one believes the mayor’s policy isn’t just another effort by the city to make nice with the NFL before the Super Bowl.

Ballard’s policy seems Marine mean, but I think my favorite Marine, Jethro Gibbs (NCIS), would prefer a saner way.

Gibbs would tell fellow Marine Ballard, “hold off on the punitive and give that Parental Policy a try.”

Come on mayor, let’s try it.

What I’m hearing

in the streets

By standing up for working families and for the rights of workers not to be bullied and intimidated in the workplace, Indiana’s House Democratic lawmakers, including our state’s African-American lawmakers, are acting in the spirit and actions of Jesus, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King.

The Democrats’ walkout was moral and under Indiana’s 1851 Constitution – legal. The white men who wrote it were divided into two parties – Democrats who comprised 63 percent and Whigs 37 percent of the 150 men who wrote the document.

It seems that division and compromises made is why Indiana’s Constitution contains a two-thirds quorum requirement.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Gov. Mitch Daniels may not like the standoff, but it is an acceptable tool for a minority oppressed by a ruthless, hard-hearted majority.

Democrats are correct, the speed and pace of proposed legislation concerning labor/management issues, public education, and even some proposals to radically change Indianapolis city/county governance has come at lawmakers and the public at a dizzying speed.

There are several radical Republican proposed laws that would turn upside down local government. And they were introduced with little or no public discussion.

But the fight over labor laws has captured America’s imagination and visibly demonstrated to our African-American community that peaceful protest, whether in Egypt or downtown Indianapolis, still matters.

Some more facts about the 2010 Census that the city’s mainstream media hasn’t revealed.

The Census reports that the Near Eastside neighborhoods that are supposed to showcase Indy during the Super Bowl continue to decline. The neighborhoods between 21st Street, I-65 and I-70, the Conrail Tracks and Emerson saw its overall population decline by 21.2 percent. That’s greater than Center Township’s 14.5 percent overall population loss.

But the Near Eastside is one of the few Center Township neighborhoods where Black population increased; up 2.7 percent, compared to a 20 percent decline throughout the rest of Center Township.

Blacks comprise 31.2 percent of the Near Eastside compared with 23.9 percent in 2000. Yet, I never see any African-American leaders (grassroots or otherwise) representing the Near Eastside efforts. Why?

And despite the hype, the 2010 Census reports that overall population in downtown neighborhoods rose only 5.3 percent; with some downtown neighborhoods experiencing sharp population declines. Black downtown population fell 18 percent, less than the overall Black decline in Center Township.

IMPD promoted 11 to command ranks last week; including an African-American sergeant to lieutenant. Now, 7.1 percent of lieutenants (up fractionally), but 11 percent (down a tad) of sergeants are Black. IMPD’s diversity continues to deteriorate under the self-proclaimed best mayor for Blacks in history.

See ‘ya next week.

You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown at acbrown@aol.com.

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