Well, what can I say. The Madison Common Council this week took one giant step backwards. Instead of strengthening our juvenile curfew laws, it "liberalized" them. Instead of moving the curfew up to 10 p.m. for 15-year-olds and younger children during weeknights, the Council added exceptions to current ordinance that requires bedtime by 11 p.m. for 17-year-olds and younger during the week (Sunday through Thursday nights).
The exceptions permit tardiness for school, community and faith-based activities. The exceptions had been urged by the Police Department in exchange for moving up the curfew hours. Instead, they were tacked onto the existing ordinance. Neat!
I don't wonder that Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele is frustrated with this city government. She has a mayor who punishes her by appointing her to none of the committee appointments she requested but rewards faithful Mike Verveer with the all-powerful Alcohol License Review Committee despite allegations of pot-smoking with bar owners after hours, despite an investigation into improper contact with a criminal suspect- at bars, no less - in his former day job at the district attorney's office, despite what amounts to a vote of no confidence from the police chief.
Thuy said when she introduced the ordinance amendment, "I co-sponsored this ordinancewith Alder Jed Sanborn to keep youth from staying out late, especially on school nights, to protectvulnerable juveniles from the dark side as well as to curb negative activities that affect the quality of life in our neighborhoods."
As the Cap Times reports:
Madison police officers had asked for an earlier curfew to enforce a community standard that neighborhoods should be quiet at 10 p.m., Police Chief Noble Wray said.
Sure enough, County Supervisor Matt Veldran urged defeat of Thuy's ordinance amendment. Ald. Brian Solomon urged abolition of any curfew whatsoever.
The Common Council has reverted to the Cult of Victimology. These kids are raising a ruckus into all hours of the night, are disturbing people trying to get a good night's rest before going to work in the morning, are polluting the air with foul language. But these children have rights!
Thank you Madison Common Council. Brenda Konkel still rules!
We are making a generation that well knows its rights but not its responsibilities.
The curfew issue put me in mind of our first president, George Washington. Seriously.
A forgotten model
I thought of Washington because I finally visited his home, Mt. Vernon, last week. That sounds like a grade school/old retiree thing to do. It should not be. It renewed my interest in what is good about America and what is good about people. It demonstrated that good people create good societies. Not programs - people. It's all about values, not income.
We took an Amtrak sleeper car to Washington D.C., and also saw the Gettysburg battlefield, truly a holy place. From historic Alexandria, the first president's urban address, we drove a rental car 8 miles south on the G. Washington Memorial parkway, hugging the south shore of the Potomac River through unspoiled verdancy. Bicyclers and joggers traversed the many paths that broke in and out of the forests and over the many contributory streams. A beautiful drive.
Mt. Vernon itself was more impressive than I imagined. It consists of the main house and many out buildings (laundry, smokehouse, stables, kitchen, gardener's home, etc.) What a delightful setting! Overlooking the Potomac River from a high bluff, the view shed is protected from further development so one sees pretty much what George and Martha and their many visitors (423 visitors in 1785 alone) saw.
George Washington is so deeply woven into the fabric of our civic culture that we take him for granted, I think. That is a mistake. He deserves study. What surprised me was his careful study and practice of agriculture, including crop rotation and new varieties of seed stock. Yes, he kept slaves, although he provided in his will that they should be released upon the death of his widow. Martha freed them one year after her husband's December 1799 death.
("I wish from my soul that the Legislature of this State could see the policy of a gradual abolition of slavery," Washington wrote late in life.)
Put your cell phones on vibrate
On the way back from Union Station in Chicago, the Van Galder bus driver asked his passengers to observe some rules of etiquette, most of them involving the ubiquitous cell phone, including these.
- Keep the ring tone volume low or put on vibrate (Mine always vibrates first before ringing; and he might have added that to eschew some of the truly obnoxious ring tones)
- Keep your voice down (there's no need to shout)
- Keep your conversations short.
Does that seem like commonplace advice? But the driver had to issue those "reminders" so there was an obvious need for them. On a tour of Woodrow Wilson's home in the DuPont Circle area (he was the only president to retire in Washington) visitors were told to turn off their cell phones. Sure enough, one cell phone rings during the intimate tour of this gracious home and the bloke (who would have appalled both Virginia-born presidents) begins yapping.
The tour guide - an engaging and apparently wellborn woman of a certain age - made deft work of the offender. Huzzah!
Now if we could only ban cell phones at sporting events!
I mention the cell phone injunctions because they constitute certain rules of civility, guidelines for how one conducts oneself in public. What? Rules? Guidelines? Civility? Codes of conduct? Politeness? Manners? Whazzupwiddat?
How quaint. Isn't today's mantra to do whatever feels good? Express yourself! Be free to be you and me!
I am postulating this rule: the more banal the conversation, the more utterly useless, the louder its volume.
We took a bed and breakfast just southeast of Howard University in Washington. Unfortunately, the brownstone next door was dominated by people for whom the "MF" word (pronounced as if it were two syllables) and "Sh*t" constituted a complete thought. At high volume. If this is the free speech that our patriots fought and died for - and that my generation marched on Selma, Alabama, or (in my case) with Father Groppi in Milwaukee - then their efforts were wasted.
Around the corner a drug shooting left one dead and three injured. We were viewing the Degas', Renoirs, and Vermeers at the National Gallery of Art. It's free. No admission charge!
In the next installment, I will bring all this back to the Madison curfew ordinance.