Remember how a few months ago our downtown merchants were in a dither about the horrible panhandler problem? That worry seems to have faded, but now they've got a new one: young people creating a "disturbance."
Chuck Arnold of the Downtown Bend Business Association and several downtown merchants and landlords spoke about this ominous menace at Wednesday night's city council meeting.
It wasn't exactly clear what they wanted the city to do. One idea was to leave a cop car (sans cop) parked downtown. Another was to move all the city's street corner vendors into the Mirror Pond Plaza, which (I guess) supposedly would have the effect of driving those "disturbing" young people away from that area.
It wasn't exactly clear, either, what the young people are doing that's so disturbing - other than just existing. There weren't any reports of criminal activities. Apparently nobody has been mugged or raped or stabbed. There wasn't even any mention of vandalism or graffiti.
(This morning's Bulletin, however, did make mention of Arnold walking through the downtown streets early in the morning checking for graffiti, picking up litter and setting "knocked-over flower pots right-side up." Yep, sounds like a real crime wave we got goin' here.)
Okay, some young people can be obnoxious. So can some middle-aged and old people, as far as that goes. But somehow it's always the young folks who take the rap for causing the "disturbance."
Why? Our guess is that old people simply find something ... well, disturbing about young people. They dress different. They talk different. They have tattoos and rings through their noses. Their hair may be weird colors. Their personal grooming habits (in the eyes of their parents' and grandparents' generations) leave something to be desired.
And so when some old folks encounter young people, they can sometimes feel frightened. (I've been frightened by old folks sometimes myself, especially when they're driving - but that's another story.) The young people aren't necessarily doing anything scary; they're just ... being young people.
So if the city wants to move the vendors into the Plaza, that's cool - it can't hurt, and it might be fun. But I hope this isn't the beginning of a campaign to hassle young people and anybody else whose appearance, manner, or general presence might be deemed "disturbing" to the worthy burghers of Bend.
And for the kids, here's a friendly word of advice from a sympathetic old fart: I don't find the f-word particularly disturbing, but a lot of other people do - so if you don't want to be harassed, try not harassing the other people downtown by saying "f---" or "f---ing" or "f---ed" or "f---er" five times in the course of every 10-word sentence.