A few weeks ago, I decided to take my lunch to a bench on Iowa City’s Ped Mall at the corner of Washington and Dubuque streets. The first thing I noticed was the lack of available benches, which were taken mostly by what looked to be transient individuals and their piles of stuff.
The Ped Mall is a business area; it is not a park. Yes, it is a public area, but its purpose is business and general enjoyment. As someone who frequents businesses on the mall, I want to feel comfortable and safe there. I witnessed several of the individuals fighting, arguing and using crass and offensive language. I could see the effects of drugs and alcohol, which made me very uncomfortable and, frankly, disgusted.
Prohibiting leaving unattended items and napping on the benches, and increasing beat patrol is a good start. The growing problem of vagrancy needs to be addressed by the council, with far more attention and study.
For today, though, let’s stay focused on the Ped Mall problem and bring the area back to a welcoming environment for everyone. It is not a park, it is not a shelter, and it is certainly not a place to take showers. It is a commercial area for everyone’s enjoyment and I expect residents to treat it with the same amount of respect as I do, whether they have a permanent address or not.
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