Wednesday, October 19, 2005


The Urban Districts Alliance embraces the phrase as its goal for downtown Springfield. Clean and safe, surely so; who wants a dangerous, fetid-smelling downtown?

Vibrancy, on the other hand, isn't as easy to define or defend. We happen to think nightclubs and eateries and cool local retail epitomize a vibrant downtown; some believe the bars are bad for a city that prides itself on raising families, not fusses.

The UDA sounds like it firmly belongs in the latter camp. Rusty Worley, the UDA executive director, is "working ... to assure business owners that the city is taking measures to try to shut down the Traffic nightclub," according to a city news release. A "vibrant" downtown seems less the goal than a "compliant" downtown, one that goes along and gets along without addressing (or even trying to solve) the long-term issues:

•A 1:30 a.m. closing time for every bar is antiquated thinking. The city should allow later staggered closing times, shutting off booze sales at 1:30 but creating a bigger window so there won't be an all-at-once rush onto the streets.

•The city should encourage other downtown businesses to serve food or non-alcoholic beverages after the bars close. Any diversion would help keep drunks in line.

•The city and UDA should offer examples where nightclubs halted or otherwise prevented a Traffic-like melee. Jordan Creek entertains several hundred people a night; the club's management apparently handles their traffic better than Traffic ever did.

•The city should recruit and retain more minority police officers, and be straightforward in the difficulties of doing so. Racial tensions exist when a mostly-white police force clashes with a crowd of black nightclubbers.

Shutting down Traffic won't make the ruffians vanish from Springfield. They'll simply turn up at another club, probably somewhere downtown. What's the plan for preventing another Saturday morning brawl? We're waiting to hear something more substantial than "clean, safe and vibrant."

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