Cumberland Times-News

April 15, 2013

Mall loitering, disruptions should be addressed

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— This is written in response to the April 4 reader commentary, “Planter issue highlights city’s identity crisis.”

First, allow me say it is rare and refreshing to read something as well written and articulate as the letter submitted by Seth Moessinger. However, just because it was stated with eloquence, does not make it any less wrong.

Loitering is a problem and it does deter business, not just in Cumberland, but everywhere.

So attempts to curtail such activities are in an effort to improve commerce, and therefore, improve the local economy. It has no relevance to infringing on a “specific” economically disadvantaged group.

In fact, I believe there is compelling evidence to suggest the downtown mall and its merchants cater to local residents.

What Ed Mullaney and the Downtown Development Commission have accomplished for the area has been nothing short of miraculous.

When families come to shop the mall, they do not want to be exposed to a large group of people hanging out around the planters engaging in such things as smoking, cursing, and being overall disruptive.

The word gentrification (Yes, I had to look it up.), is used only to cast a negative connotation to the fact that the area has underwent some much needed renovations.

I do believe there is such a thing as gentrification, but I don’t see where Cumberland’s economic improvements have forced people out of their homes … just possibly the planter space they want to occupy.

If gentrification had actually taken place, I doubt this would even be a discussion. The issue would have resolved itself.

In the March 5 article, “Downtown irons out planter debate,” Mullaney makes the perfect point when he says to “poll the business owners” because that is exactly what needs to be done.

Without them, there is no economic development in downtown Cumberland.

No further methodology need be applied. It is not the responsibility of the small businesses of Cumberland to determine the cause of such unpleasant interactions, just to prevent them from deterring potential customers.

The writer’s speculations as to why business is slow in Cumberland only expose the fact that we can all agree it’s slower than it could be.

This proposed solution is an affordable and logical first step in addressing that.

If the planter walls get built, the loitering (that is, ALL loitering, not the “specific” groups), goes away, and businesses still struggle, then maybe the authors suggestions can be weighed as at “next phase” of the process.

However, the concept of allowing people to use their food stamps at a farmers market seems ludicrous to me.

Overall, the mall is not a public park; it is a place for people to shop and have a good time. The group of people being defended is not banned from those premises, everyone is welcome to go shop, eat, and drink on the mall ... just not to loiter (which is neither absurd nor illegal).

What I see as really wrong with having to take such measures, is that the very group of people being defended by Mr. Moessinger either don’t realize, or just don’t care about the effects they have on deterring revenue into their hometown.

It’s both wrong and sad that these matters need to be addressed, but not for the reasons highlighted in his letter.

 Todd Arbogast

Rawlings