- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2001

One of the great joys of living in Washington, D.C., is knowing that from the time the cherry blossoms bloom in spring until autumn turns our minds toward hearth and home, the streets are full of parades, festivals and fairs. While tourists meander the national monuments and memorials, Washingtonians look forward to parades, Georgia Avenue Day, Anacostias Unifest, and church and neighborhoods block parties. They are the food stuff of life in Americas capital city, and we need to do all we can to make sure it is always picture perfect.
While most of those activities plump some chump change into the citys coffers via street-closing permits and the like to help defray the costs, the true benefits of street fairs and festivals have no dollar signs. They do, however, cost.
They dont cost the festival-goers, who pay for a beer here and there and perhaps gas and parking fare. For D.C. taxpayers they bring to bear enormous incidental costs, those costs associated with the I-could-care-less-what-the-law-says-attitude, which is something were seeing more and more these days.
The rap for this can, to a considerable degree, be put on the young rum-and-cokers who relieve themselves between buildings on U Street because they cant walk the straight line to the nearest restroom. And the generation next-ers who toss handbills and fliers to the curb because theyre sloshed and havent a thought about what tomorrows shindig might bring.
The incidental costs of allowing them to have a good time a large outdoor gatherings in the nations capital city includes police officers, who are on overtime. The costs of firefighters and emergency medical technicians, who are on overtime. The costs of public works employees, who are on overtime.
And maybe even the costs of water and sewer employees, who have to work overtime to unclog the trash from the sewers. Other costs include the courts, public defenders and prosecutors, who have to serve up justice to the folks arrested during those festivals and pub crawls and the additional overtime costs of the police officers who then will have to go to court to testify in those cases.
Consider, the Cap-City Bar Crawl held during Final Four weekend, when police arrested more than 50 folks most of them for underage drinking, DWI and disorderly conduct. The estimated tab in police overtime is $10,000.
"The nature of this event is such that it promotes intoxication, and clearly attracts underage drinkers," says Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.
Who dares dispute that a pub crawl timed to the climax of the end of the NCAA basketball season would attract college students? "Yet," as Mr. Lynch says, "this pales in comparison to the reports from College Park indicating alcohol played a major role in the destruction of over a quarter million dollars in property irreparable marring the stellar season of the University of Maryland basketball team."
Indeed. Moreover, New Yorks inimitable Mayor Rudy Giuliani is so fed up with booze-soaked street festivities that he has proposed a ban on booze at all outdoor events that require a street closing event, including neighborhood block parties. No one, including the police, should tip his glass to hizzoner or to his stupid idea. The booze isnt the problem. Its an attitude problem and I am tired of my tax dollars paying the price.
I am in likeminded company. Mr. Lynch says an Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Mount Pleasant is urging the city to enforcement litter laws.
The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District is sending trashed fliers it has collected to the Department of Public Works. Georgetown University is, too. Their collective point: Force the city to inform the owners of these advisements of the consequences. Businesses can be fined up to $1,000 per piece of litter if the city is able to finger the culprit (and thats fine by me).
Civic-minded folks faced a similar problem two or three years ago when record and concert promoters plastered the city with posters and stickers. It took months (and hundreds of thousands of tax dollars) to get the point across to promoters and clean up their mess. Now, instead of posters and stickers, they have resorted to fliers and handbills. The city needs to crack down, perhaps even warn (or charge) festival organizers.
While the cherry blossoms will soon wither, the litter problem will worsen as organized outdoor activities and festivals draw more and more people. Indeed, the message must be pointed and clear: Stop trashing Americas capital city or pay to clean it up.
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