Remember those halcyon days of neighbors getting together on a sun-dappled tree-lined street to engage in a friendly game in which all ages are welcome and fun is had by all?
Yeah, that's illegal now unless you get the proper permits.
Also, you can't get the proper permits.
For nearly four summers now, Ed Snyder and Joe Coleman have organized weekly neighborhood kickball games on North Tejon Street. At around 6 p.m. on Monday afternoons, neighborhood kids from toddlers to teenagers, parents in tow, spill out of their well-manicured, Victorian homes and kick a ball.
Four summers of innocent fun and genuine community building without incident.
Then, this past August 9th, the cops showed up. This wasn't your friendly beat cop jauntily swinging his nightstick and joining in on the fun for a few minutes of comity. No, this was nearly enough cops to form their own team.
At the end of the first inning, eight CSPD officers, including senior officer Cdr. Tish Olszewski, ordered the crowd of approximately 25 children and parents onto the sidewalk. "
In fairness, this was not the first encounter with the criminal kickballers.
According to Snyder, the involvement of CSPD started about three weeks ago, after a neighbor complained about the game.
"We have tried to reasonably come to a conclusion on how to settle this," said Olszewski. "We've given verbal warning after verbal warning. We've said, ‘Hey, go the permit route.' Go through the city and get a permit so you can block the street and play kickball. You guys didn't do that."
Ah, but they did do that, or at least tried.
According to Snyder:
"I did that, personally. Your previous two officers that came out here said they would talk to the permit folks, and they would explain the situation. They sent me an email, and told me the person to call and the number to call. There were three questions we were asking about the block party permit. One, does everybody have to agree, on the block, to this? Two, do we have to renew this weekly for a kickball game? The person got back to me and basically said there's a 14-day waiting period for this and we'd have to go and get signatures from everybody, every single time we had to do it, so it's not practical for a kickball game that lasts an hour and a half. Plus you'd have to rent $300 worth of barricades each time, you can't put up your own barricades. It wasn't a practical solution."
Every week, get signatures from everyone and shell out $300.
So you can play kickball in front of your own house.
While you could blame it all on the city bureaucracy and say the cops were just doing their job, remember that senior police officers are part of the bureaucracy too, or they never would have gotten to that rank. So it should come as no surprise that Cdr. Olszewski seemed pretty eager to defend the move.
Olszewski cited public safety concerns regarding a large group of people in the middle of the roadway. "You are one block from the hospital," she said. "I would hate it if someone came screaming through here, trying to get to the hospital, and you can't get a kid out of the street in time."
This safety fetish can be used to justify just about anything, can't it.
And remember, somehow, in nearly four full summers, no kid has been run down in the street by a crazed ambulance driver.
Olszewski also noted that there are nearby parks that could be used, but as anyone who has ever participated in street sports can tell you, that is not remotely the same thing.
The parents were also told they have the option of working within the bureaucracy.
[CSPD Sgt. James] Waters suggested parents take their concerns to the municipal law-making body. "Here's a thought," he said. "If you don't like the city ordinance, we are a society that lives by going and making and changing laws. You guys can go to City Council, as a group of parents, and say, ‘We have a problem with this ordinance. What do we need to do to change it? Modify it? Make it a little different?'"
At least their grandkids might get a chance to play
Oh, the officers also offered the parents yet another alternative: Get charged with felony child abuse!
"The next step, after tickets, it goes to child abuse," said Olszewski. "We get the District Attorney involved because you're putting them out there where a car could come by and plow into them. Then it goes to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which is a felony.
I don't think anyone wants to get charged with a felony. We have really tried to work with all of you. We don't want it to come to this."
You may not "want it to come to this," but you just explicitly threatened that it's going to come to this. You're not going to charge them with a felony for contributing to the delinquency of a minor because they are contributing to the delinquency of a minor. You're going to charge them because you can.
And this is why we can't have nice things anymore.