In the week since the "Incident" in Bayne Park, the social media drama queens and kings have been hard at work expounding on the probability of Bellevue's imminent demise as a town where anyone at all would want to live, shop or worship.
It's time to get a little perspective.
First of all, the incident itself.
Yes, there was a "drug dealer." Of course, he was selling marijuana, which is legal in much of the world. The fact that Pennsylvania has not yet reached that level of enlightenment does not make the substance itself any more dangerous. I would be much more concerned if he had been selling heroin, because people who use heroin can get quite desperate to get their hands on more.
I question using the term "shooting." Shooting implies that something other than a clump of grass ended up with a bullet in it. Something animate. A person. Maybe even a squirrel.
Has such a thing ever happened in Bellevue before. Oh, you better believe it.
Back in the good old days -- or at least the 1980s -- a regular theme of discontent among the citizens of Bellevue was the horde of hooligans who hung out at the corner of Lincoln and South Jackson avenues. Some of you may even have been part of that horde. We constantly heard how people were afraid to walk down the street. We heard about the bad language, and the noise, and the illegal activities that surely were going on in the midst of all those hormones.
And there was crime. There was a real shooting -- one that cost a local young man his life. There was a stabbing that almost took another young man's life.
So, what happened recently in Bayne Park is nothing new, and there is no evidence it will become commonplace if the appropriate response is developed. When there were concerns about an area of Lincoln Avenue years ago, Mayor Rosemary Heflin stationed a police car in that area. Even innocent teenagers don't like to hang out around cops.
The problems in Bayne Park have been coming on for some time. Every summer, someone on council asks for increased police patrols. Every summer, he or she is told that the borough -- with 15 full-time officers -- does not have the manpower. The borough can place a full-time officer in Northgate High School for nine months of the year, but not someone in Bayne Park for a few hours. Maybe the next police contract needs to contain some language about vacation scheduling so that the borough is not left short-handed when a police presence is most needed.
But Bellevue's elected officials have to take some responsibility as well. You will frequently hear certain officials yapping endlessly about needing a strategic plan. Strategic plans are great. In fact, Bellevue paid quite a bit of money some years back to have a professional firm conduct a strategic plan for its parks. The recommendation for Bayne was that it be developed primarily for younger children and families, given that it is the location of a playground and library that appeal to those groups.
Then someone decided to completely ignore that strategic plan and plop a skate plaza down in the middle of Bayne Park. Skateboarders are a breed of their own. They are independent and innovative. As a former teen rebel, I love their desire to be unique. But they scare the bejesus out of any young mother approaching that park with a couple preschoolers. They need a place to be free to be themselves as much as the small children and families do. Bayne Park never should have been that place.
But now Bellevue is stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars of skate plaza in Bayne Park, so what do you do? That park is no longer a haven for the shortest among us, so perhaps Bellevue needs to do more to attract a true mix of people to Bayne in equal proportions. Make an effort to be more inclusive, instead of the exclusivity trend we have seen among officials in recent days. Let people smoke a cigar or a cigarette. Let them bring their leashed dog to an outdoor movie or concert.
Bellevue wants -- no, Bellevue needs -- to get people into that park. We hope that in rewriting the rules for the park -- a task that has been undertaken by the parks and recreation committee -- someone uses some common sense to do just that.