In Annapolis, Speak Softly
Police May Soon Carry a Big Stick
by Christopher Heagy

High attendance at city council meetings and a recent Ward One Residents Association meeting demonstrate the desperate state of our city streets and the exasperated mind set of our citizens.

Police Chief Joseph Johnson answered the concerns of many Annapolitans by saying that "Loud music downtown or in your neighborhood is as important as a crack house next door in another neighborhood." Those are welcome words to many harried citizens.

The Annapolis City Council will soon vote on an ordinance to allow Chief Joseph Johnson's officers to control invading noise pollution. The general language of the ordinance gives the police discretionary power to return peace, quiet and civility to the ravaged streets of Annapolis.

Ordinance 0-1-99 has been proposed to protect the "peace, morals and welfare" of our impressionable citizens.

This ordinance will muzzle many events that cause the decibel level to explode.

· The U.S. Sail- and Powerboat Shows. These annual October events generate a huge amount of revenue, but that fact cannot allow drunken sailors and boaters to control city streets. The boat shows create two weeks of noise pollution. Strong fines and jail terms should reform this unruly behavior.

· Navy football games. The United States Naval Academy is a cornerstone of the city, but that does not give the Mids and their supporters the right to run roughshod over the metropolis. Tailgating before and after the game is "hooting" at its worst. Tailgaters shout, use indecent language and even sing outside the stadium. Once the revelers go inside, they get even louder. The cheering during the game can destroy the peace of a beautiful fall afternoon. This ordinance will silence Navy boosters.

· The annual Fourth of July celebration. The July heat, thousands of visitors, the explosion of fireworks and all-night celebrations drive Annapolitans mad. This ordinance will outlaw the "frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds which emanate" from fireworks, and the police can quiet the parties.

· The Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights and Midnight Madness that kick off the holiday season, the Blue Angels commissioning in May, the Green Beer Races and the upcoming historical re-enactment of the Battle of the Severn - all create public disturbances. These and every event that lures people to enjoyment provoke individuals to disturb the peace with their loud speech and laughter.

But fun is not the only target of the "hooting bill." The police will be law-bound to remove any disturbance in our city. Thus this ordinance would empower the police to control the unbearable debates at city council meetings, where council members often behave in a haughty, high-handed manner that is both annoying to others and disturbing to peace.

In this case fines won't work, and there is a better punishment. Let council members be forced to watch endless replays of their debates. Admittedly, to listen once is more than enough. Repetition is cruel, but drastic measures are in order.

In truth, Annapolis is a great city with many attractions that lure residents and visitors alike. Noise is a reality of life in the city we have all helped to create. What's the solution to packing too many people in too little space with too many events? Higher levels of tolerance, learning to resolve conflict or treating loud music like downtown's crack house?

| Issue 13 |

Volume VII Number 13
April 1-7, 1999
New Bay Times

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