Housekeeping: I spent the past week contemplating the future of the ole C.Rushing blog. The issue is that writing does not come easy and therefore requires a lot of time. Time is a resource that I will not have in abundance this coming year. I thought about ways to scale back, spend less time and still produce something worth a damn. I couldn’t make myself happy with any of the options. It then dawned on me that toning things down, scaling back and retreating is not really my style. So, F*** it, I’m going in the opposite direction. Not only am I going to keep it going on a weekly basis, I’m going to do it bigger and better (mind you, I’m not really sure what that means just yet, but it sounds good). So, there it is, let’s keep a move on.
I will start the year with a confession- it’s best you hear this from me rather than read about somewhere else or see it on TMZ. This year, D and I celebrated our “New Year’s Eve” on the 30th instead of the 31st. The boys went for a sleepover with my in-laws, and we went out on the town. I got to see some friends I haven’t seen in while and in general cut the fool*. Before I make this confession, I want you to know that these were extraordinary circumstances and the term “over-served” would have been an understatement. Let’s just say, I was in a state of mind where smoking a Chinese cigarette** sounded like a great idea. After a number of aperitifs at a couple of my spots, we headed to Easy’s for another cocktail or five and a fine meal. Afterward, I sauntered over to meet three of my best buddies at Hair of the Dog. As I arrived, they were leaving. What happened next might shock you:
C.Rushing: What’s up boys? Where we headed? (pounds and hugs all around)
Unnamed Friend: To watch UFC at Buffalo Wild Wings.
C.Rushing: Alright, lets go.
|As I recall, it went down something like this...|
We walked the couple of blocks down Market Street to our destination (we did not find Paula Deen atop the building). As fate would have it, upon arrival we were informed that there was a 90-minute wait (a 90-minute F’ing wait to get into that shithole). So sanity prevailed and we walked a couple of blocks over to Local 191 (I like it there). That’s right, I was prepared to enter the Buffalo Wild Wings premises and spend money there. Worse than my slight hangover is the knowledge that I was actually going to darken the door of the epicenter of bad urban design in Chattanooga. Despite the fact that I didn’t actually go inside, I still feel that I’ve let myself down. To make matters worse, I can’t stand UFC. I simply can’t bring myself to watch two grown men beat the shit out of each other with their bare hands, but there I was. Speaking of violence, we made sure that our night out ended before folks started shootin’.
I have resisted the urge to write about crime and violence as 1) I want my commentary to be constructive and 2) crime is less a design issue than it is a social issue. Yeah, yeah, I know, everything is a design issue. There are design issues that drive that type of behavior and there are design issues that drive how people interact with one another to induce conflict. Our profession even has a field that focuses on how to address crime by design, CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design). Let me be perfectly clear though, shooting a gun at another human being for the purpose of maiming them or ending their life is not a design issue. It is curious to note, however, that the legal basis for governing issues of design and for arresting attempted murders is the same.
The 10th Amendment to our constitution gives states the authority to enact measures to protect the health, safety, welfare and morals of the community. The state then delegates this authority, known as the police powers, to local governments. Those powers are the legal basis for why our police force can exist, but it also extends to design related laws like zoning, subdivision regulations and building codes.
As I am fond of reminding ya’ll, I lean slightly right of center in my political views. I believe that government is bloated at every level and needs to be put on a diet. I also recognize the absolute necessity of having government provide services that are of importance to us all. We have a couple hundred years of case law that have established what are and are not valid applications of the police powers. Despite that body of decisions, there are still times when governmental action or inaction comes under scrutiny. When a controversial issue arises in regard to governmental action, I typically form an opinion based on a pragmatic consideration of the underlying premise that gives them the authority to act. So in matters of the police power, I consider whether or not the potential act of the government promotes and protects the health, safety, welfare and morals of the community. If so, then I generally favor the action, if no, then I generally don’t. For some (simplified) specific examples, let’s see what’s in the news…
Does the closing of a venue that has been the scene of repeated bouts of fighting and gun-play promote the health, safety, welfare and morals of Chattanooga? I believe so, shut them down.
Does an inter-governmental process to plan for the future development of the region promote the health, safety, welfare and morals of the community? I firmly believe so, plan away.
Does a new regulatory board for governing the design of new buildings downtown protect the health, safety, welfare and of the community? Well, that connection is a bit more tenuous. In consideration of the legal nature of this post, I’ll take the fifth. Regardless of whether or not the downtown review board is performing a task our Founding Fathers would approve of, their work will still benefit the community (I just hope they never get sued). Welcome 2012, I have a feeling you will be a feisty one.
*Alabama slang for behaving silly.
**That is not a euphemism, it was an actual cigarette from China.