Workshop brings youth, government together

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A workshop designed to bring young people and government together to discuss some prospective ordinances seemed to be divided between two concerns: a possible curfew for juveniles (under age 18) and a vacant commercial structure ordinance.

Two members of the Minden City Council elected to attend – Dist. D member Michael Roy and Pam Bloxom of Dist. E. In addition, members of the task force Safety Initiative Program (SIP), which has been working on the curfew ordinance and city park ordinances, were in the audience, along with youth from the community and Minden High School.

Elisha Butler, a youth from Dist. C asked if each councilperson felt the curfew would be beneficial to their district and why.

“We have mostly older people in my district, but I am definitely in favor of it,” Bloxom said.

The proposed ordinance, which the SIP commission amended, reads:

“Curfew means a regulation to restrict outdoor activities of juveniles in the city between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. (which was an amendment from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m.) each day, except on Friday and Saturday, on which days the curfew shall be in force from midnight and 5 a.m.; except on designated holidays, on which days the curfew shall be in force from midnight and 5 a.m. (an addition).

Mayor Terry Gardner said SIP amended the curfew ordinance for a reason.

“Walmart and most of your convenience stores close at 10,” he said, while Bloxom noted that weekends are still the later time.

Michael Roy said he likes the 10 p.m. change on schools nights, especially for his own children.

Police officer Jason Smith, president of the Minden Police Association, said there has been an increase in crime throughout all districts.

“The juvenile curfew is a very immediate and specific act,” he said. “If we get them off the street, they are not committing a crime. This is a short term solution that could drop crime by 20 to 30 percent.”

Other students asked how police would enforce the curfew equally when they are understaffed.

“Our intent is to protect victims of crime who are all over town,” Smith said. “It’s a problem all over town.”

City Attorney Jim Yocum told students that every law has the ability to enforced selectively, whether for good or bad.

“You will see disparagement in enforcement from district to district,” he said. “It depends on the age demographic, like Ms. Bloxom said, her district is mostly older people … not many 16 year olds there. You have to consider how many young people are in each area and what is in that area.”

Connor Heard, who lives in Dist. E, asked the council and mayor how they would come to a compromise to pass any of the proposed ordinances.

“We’ve been on the short end of the stick for two years, and we just keep on trying,” Bloxom said. “That’s all I can tell you.”

Roy said it would take all members of the council sitting down in a workshop.

“To try to come together as a group and compromise for the entire city,” he said. “I can’t do just what’s best for my district because what I do affects this entire city. We’ve got to have everybody’s cooperation and logically think through the ordinances and try to find a common ground.”

While the proposed ordinance concerning city parks was never addressed, the one concerning vacant structures seemed to be a concern to the students asking questions.

Connor Woods asked what other things the city might be doing to bring in businesses.

“How exactly do we plan on growing?” Woods asked. “Are there going to be incentives to get new businesses?”

Gardner told him there are TIF (tax incentive financing) districts in the city.

“If a business is in the TIF district, they are charged an extra 2 percent sales tax, which comes to the city,” Gardner said. “Every 90 days, we write them a check. That helps them pay on their mortgage.”

Also making available property that is certified – all of the environmental studies, flood zone and so forth have already been done and that property is ready for industry and business.