OPINION – The City of St. George likes to position itself as a family-friendly enclave with something for everyone.
I guess if you are into running ridiculous lengths on a chilly morning, or playing pickleball in the Geezer Games, it’s true.
But, what if your blood is still young and warm?
You are up that proverbial creek without a paddle.
Especially if you like to dance.
The Monster Mash fiasco at, of all places, Fiesta Fun, earned the City of St. George yet another black eye, and this time not only among the young people who have no voice in their community.
There is a disputed permit thing surrounding some police action at this family center that resulted in threats of arrest if the music was turned up and people, God forbid, danced.
The incident went national this weekend when “Saturday Night Live” did a bit about it during its broadcast.
So, once again, Utah’s image takes a pratfall on the national stage.
To outsiders, Utah is pretty well sized up as the state of 3.2 beer and 5.7 wives. Add bizarre regulations about public dancing and, well, you get the picture.
There’s a whole lot to question here.
Does, indeed, the city require somebody planning a dance to submit a permit application 30 days in advance of the event?
Marc Mortensen, the assistant to the city manager, has said the reason the city requires permits to be handed in 30 days before an event is so the city department and associated third parties, like the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, have adequate time to review it. A final decision for approval is then put before the City Council.
At best, that’s a cumbersome, promoter-unfriendly way to do business, and, rather arbitrary. First of all, it shouldn’t take 30 days for the health department to decide if the permit meets public health standards. Second, who are the other “associated third parties” that need to be drawn into the equation and why should it take 30 days to get their approval? Finally, why on Earth should the City Council have the final approval for a dance? Do the local high schools seek council approval for the prom? That’s a dance held on public property. Do you need a permit for a wedding celebration where there will be music and dancing? More importantly, the section of city code referenced takes into account all outdoor events. Would this then mean every high school football game requires a permit? Or, is the issue of holding a dance an arbitrary decision left in the hands of the council or, as seems in this case, a cop on the beat? What if there is bad blood between the council and promoter?
To complicate this issue, there is a dispute that the original permit may have been altered after the fact.
If that is truly the case, I would expect, and rightly so, the promoter to file a massive civil lawsuit against the city. STGNews has, by the way, published the permit submitted by the promoter and amended pages offered by the city. Nowhere on the city’s exhibit is the amended information initialed or acknowledged in any way by the promoter.
Where the promoter made his mistake is in not speaking directly with the City Attorney when he tried to clear the matter. He ended up in discussion with a deputy. Never talk to a second in command because it gives the guy at the top an out to say: “Oops, my assistant made a mistake. Sorry.” It’s how many people get away without accepting accountability.
So, where can young people go to have fun? Where can they go, what can they do to hang out with people of their own generation and interests?
As part of the geezer demographic, I realize that I don’t share a lot with the younger folks. Our tastes are very different in music, films, and pop culture and that it would be tragic to try to rope them into the things that I enjoy. I remember what it was like to get into the car with Mom and Dad and how it felt to have them punch in the easy listening station on the radio when I was young, so if they want to listen to Kanye West instead of The Beatles, so be it, and if they think this edition of “Saturday Night Live” is cool and edgy, I won’t preach about how truly cool and edgy it was when it began its groundbreaking run on network television. And, although I don’t dance very well, I certainly wouldn’t want to deny anybody else the right to cut a rug, as they said in the old days.
What I also recall from my youth is the tendency to rebel against and challenge authority that was unreasonable and misplaced.
It bothers me that there is a chance that the permit was altered after it was issued. It bothers me that the city would have such a narrow-minded and uptight attitude that it would hold such tight control over something as innocuous as who holds a dance. But, mostly, it bothers me when young people are disrespected and treated shabbily.
Just because we are older and people from our age group occupy the seat of power does not mean we hold the key to all wisdom and good decisions. There is plenty evidence to support my point.
These young people are good, solid people. We have raised them to be just that.
But, they are young, much younger than us, and deserving of a world that they fit into, which will, hopefully, be much different and better than the one we have created for them.
Time to cut them lose – footloose, perhaps – and let them have the kind of fun they want and deserve.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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