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PARK PROHIBITION: Douglass High teacher, Douglass Park employee favor park booze ban

"High risk, low income -- and unsafe?" 

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/1/14 (Beat Byte) -- A city parks employee and a Columbia public school teacher have publicly come out in favor this week of an alcohol ban in Douglass Park. 

First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick has also reiterated her support for such a ban. 

"Right now, you can come into this park with an open bottle of gin and sit down and have your drink," Columbia Parks and Recreation baseball coordinator Sam Brady -- a frequent voice on park safety -- told local television station KMIZ yesterday

Columbia police arrested a man for firing a gun in the park over a robbery apparently unrelated to alcohol.   "You can be belligerent, you can make a mockery of yourself and that seems to be okay," Brady, who is black, told reporters covering the arrest.   

Brady's comments are a marked contrast to just one month ago, when Douglass Park baseball program board member John Kelly praised park safety, "contradicting what he says is the unsavory reputation of Douglass Park," the Columbia Missourian reported in May.    "This is our 18th year," Kelly said.   "We've had no incidents of any kind.   So it kind of flies in the face of what people think of Douglass Park."

Brady has seen the situation differently for some time.  Though he told TV reporters "the first thing" he'd like to see is "a ban on alcohol in the park," Brady had other ideas after two park shootings in 2012

"I really do think that a gun buy-back program would really do wonders with all of the shootings we've been seeing around the area," Brady told KOMU news then.   "We also need a bigger and better police presence at this park."
 
Watching the park from his offices at next-door Douglass High School, veteran Columbia Public Schools language teacher Dan Murphy said people start drinking everyday in the Douglass Park pavilion at about 10 a.m.   He supports "banning alcohol there during certain hours of the week." 

"Ginny is trying to address a problem in her Ward," Murphy wrote on this publication's website

Both Brady and Murphy say children in their charge avoid Douglass Park.   "Most of my students live in this neighborhood.  They stay away and discourage their kids from going to the park," Murphy explained.   

Business, shopping, and entertainment patrons have expressed the same concerns about drinking downtown, a growing problem, they say, with the rising college student population.   Police actions for drunk and disorderly behavior and minors in possession of alcohol are more frequent around predominately white student housing than a predominately black city park. 

Confronted in recent weeks about the poor optics, racist overtones, and outright hypocrisy of an alcohol ban in a single park, Chadwick told KMIZ Douglass' demographic sets it apart.   "Allowing alcohol in a high risk, low income neighborhood park is a public health and safety issue that we should take a serious look at," she said Saturday. 

Dan Murphy agrees, bristling at the suggestion such a prohibition is racist.     "To believe that the crowd hanging out during the day at Douglass somehow represents this neighborhood seems rather racist to me," he explained.  "If a large group was drinking and drugging next to any predominately white school, alcohol would be banned in a heart 'byte'." 


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