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The Flip-Side of Our Vibrant Downtown Nightlife

Some "accidents" are entirely avoidable.

Brian Townsend, the St. Charles City Administrator, about the rich "social, cultural, and economic vibrancy" of downtown St. Charles, and he has the "approximately $1 million in sales and alcoholic beverage taxes" that flow to the City from all the bars, taverns, and restaurants in town. In response, I'd like to take the opportunity here to write about the 'flip-side' of that rich social and cultural nightlife that has come to define the reality of downtown St. Charles. Specifically, the kind of vibrant nightlife that showed up early Sunday morning, March 18, at roughly 12:20 a.m., a mere 200 feet from where my wife, my children, and I sleep.

According to the Police report, the driver of the car pictured allegedly patronized one of downtown St. Charles' "high-quality eating & drinking establishments," drank enough to get legally drunk, and then proceeded to drive, too fast for conditions, down a residential street, with the photo above being the end result of this apparent chain of poor decisions. It is an absolute miracle that members of my neighborhood, the passenger, or the driver of this vehicle were not killed or seriously hurt in this incident.

The total costs of this incident for the City? I will not detail all my type-A calculations here, but my rough estimate for the direct costs to the City to respond to this incident comes out to slightly more than $550. The total income to the City from these two patrons of our downtown's "high-quality eating & drinking establishments?" I peg that at somewhere between sixty-four cents and one dollar.

Far, far, far more offensive than cost to the City to respond to this incident is the simple fact that our City government, for reasons completely beyond my comprehension, is apparently fully committed to the proposition that it is somehow a good idea to invite all of Kane County to downtown St. Charles to drink. That a certain percentage of those patrons get drunk, start fights, assault our Police Officers, vomit on our sidewalks, urinate in public, have sex in public, disturb the peace, and then, for a final insult as they leave our town, drive on our roads, drunk, should be no surprise to us.

Incidents like the one pictured above are now apparently just the cost of doing business, despite the fact that they are a clear and present danger not only to every resident of my neighborhood, but to every St. Charles resident who drives, bicycles, or walks in this City. Better hope and pray that the next drunk driver who has taken in a bit too much of our rich social, cultural, and economic vibrancy does not come across the path of you or your child/spouse/sibling/parent.

Mr. Townsend may like to think that St. Charles has become the "dining and entertainment hub in the Tri-Cities, if not all of Kane County," but the reality of the situation is revealed regularly in my neighborhood under the harsh glare of Police lights: we have become little more than the Rush Street of Kane County, and we have shiny new anti-public urination and drunken brawling ordinances to prove it. If our grand plans for rebuilding our downtown and getting more residents to live and shop there is going to work, and work well for all of us, downtown must be more than a collection of drunks every weekend. The big problem with buying into the Rush Street model for economic vibrancy is that while lots of folks may want to visit and have a good time there, nobody actually wants to live there because of what folks do after having a good time. A downtown economic model based on the sale of alcohol is a dead-end that will ultimately take the surrounding historic neighborhoods down with it in a vicious cycle of disinvestment, decay and neglect.

If we are going to embrace the Rush Street model as 'good enough' for our town, we would all do well to first heed the advice of Ellsworth Toohey of the Fountainhead: "I play the stock market of the spirit and I sell short." That way, we will never be surprised by the actions of the people from whom the City is getting alcohol tax revenue, nor by how low we will collectively let ourselves sink in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Personally, I don't want to sink that low, and I hope that our leadership wakes up before we do. The path we are on is unsustainable. We must do better than this. We need leadership that will hold out for developments that will pay long-term dividends, not just short-term gains. We need leadership with real vision.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Francis Glass April 17, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Hi Mike -- from the numerous comments I've read that you have posted on so many articles in The Patch, it seems to me that you spend most of your life disparaging and ridiculing anyone who doesn't have the same opinion as you. How "constructive" and "brave" is that? You also seem to have a vast knowledge of all that goes on in St. Charles -- how long have you lived in St. Charles? You just seem so positive that you have all the facts and that your opinion is the only correct one. If you have a source that the rest of us could use so that we, too, could always know everything and be right -- please share!
David Amundson April 17, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Mr. Garrity - When you delete your comment and post one that does not rely on baseless personal attacks, I will be more than happy to respond to you.
Lois Lane April 17, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Francis, you and I need to do lunch sometime. That way we could do "something constructive" with ours lives as Mike seems to think we need to do.
Henry James April 18, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Mike first off to answer a few of your comments. I was born and raised here and yes I have been very active in this community and shared many of my ideas. Secondly yes there is a Good Ole Boy club and those who have been involved know it. Fortunately many of them have realized things can't go on they way they have been and are making changes, but I personally am concerned with how things have been going for the last several years and feel we need to start speaking out. Lois, for the sake of getting the facts out there Mr. Mulholland was the City Adm. in the beginning of the First Street Project but he retired when Mayor Klinkhammer lost the election to Mayor DeWitte. It is a typical process that a new Mayor will want a new Administrator and Mr. Mulholland knew this. Not saying that everything went perfectly with the planning for 1st St, but the implimentation has been a bigger issue and I for one am very concerned about where it is heading both financially and density wise.
Elizabeth R April 18, 2012 at 02:59 AM
I agree Francis, all this guy seems to do is ridicule everyone who seems to want better for our downtown and City, yet as he points fingers, he himself has no real points of substance to make about the issues of too many bars, the issues they cause or how to rebuild a thriving downtown like we had 30 years ago with actual stores people could shop. I think Mr. Admunson does seem to have ideas, like raising the issues publically, encouraging others to also get involved and to contact City Officials to let them know we are tired of the status quo and pointing out our liquor laws are flawed and that simply comparing them to neighboring Cities proves that. One man can't move a mountain, but in his own way, he is trying to get a village behind him to help him do so. Mike, I have to say it's way more than your comments here have contributed to anything worth while. To all the bloggers here, keep it up, stay the course and get your friends involved, strength is in numbers and as Mr James said, many other residents have shown they are tired of how things are going and have banded together to stand up and speak out on various issues they disagree with. The difference between these groups and you Mike is they do it respectfully and ethically, they don't have to try and bully and put down with a mean spirit, those who want better for the City they call home. Mnay times too simple residents can speak out and help get more done than a person who holds Office and can't speak their mind.

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