The lead story at the top of the Metro section of Thursday’s Chattanooga Times Free Press was about liability insurance for the imperiled Bessie Smith Strut. At the bottom of the same page, there was a headline that read, “2 shootings in 1 day leave 2 injured in city.”
Either I’m not smoking strong enough tobacco or common sense just left the building.In the same section of the newspaper, one editorial mourns what is perceived to be a lack of oxygen to keep “the city’s treasured 30-year-old street bash going” while another editorial notes the annual Riverbend Festival “has for decades been very important and positive for our community … but the Bessie Smith Strut … recently has stirred a lot of serious concern about safety.
Please, what’s the question here? Chattanooga has already had 28 shootings within a short distance of Martin Luther King Boulevard since the start of the year. The Chattanooga Police Department will tell you that based on that evidence alone, the decision to cease the Strut until a new civility can be proven makes it far wiser to end the June dance “sadly” than what could turn out to be “very badly.”
Face it - would you want to call for an insurance quote on the very same day 33-year-old Jeffery Braswell was shot on Hardy Street and, in an unrelated attack, 26-year-old Richard Thien was rushed to Erlanger Hospital with broken bones, a collapsed lung and a damaged liver from another bullet on North Willow? Moreover, how would you like to be the underwriter on the other end of the call? Put yourself in the Mayor’s shoes. Ron Littlefield, reviled by the Times editorialist for his decision to cancel this year’s event, would surely be held accountable if the city continued to “self-insure” the event, as has been the case for the past 29 years. But the mayor is also responsible for the general safety and welfare of the city’s residents and, as unpopular as his decision might be to some, consider the fact that Wednesday’s tragic shootings will cost “somebody” a rough average of $50,000 apiece.
Quick math: By the time you total up the police, the ambulance, the medical and surgical costs, and all else incurred by our Wednesday gunmen alone, what … er, did you figure on paying for that Bessie Smith liability policy? And how does that work against the $100,000 now “in stable condition at Erlanger Hospital”? When you get that numbers problem crunched, get started on Thursday’s newer case where a 38-year-old guy was shot three times on Union Avenue yesterday.
The Times editorialist mocked the mayor’s “articulated and amply broadcasted fears about potential violence from a tiny minority of black youths in street gangs” but nowhere was it mentioned that every victim and every assailant in this year’s 28 shootings thus far have been black. Is that a tiny minority? Further, in neither case were any gang members identified, although there was the mention one assailant “appeared to be 12 or 13 years old.”
The opinion boldly stated the mayor’s decision “has given the city a needless black eye that will be used against Chattanooga by economic competitors.” What in the world is that about? Anybody who thinks closing down a street dance is going to influence interstate commerce needs to take a deep breath and a longer look at what 28 shootings in four months will do to your business chances.The whole argument is absolutely insane. It is embarrassing.
Sure, a lot of people want to make a lot of noise, playing the racism card and the “free admission” scheme and the “timid response” of the City Council like so many juggling lemons, but the blatant truth is there hasn’t been one critic who has pointed to the singular reason for all the turmoil. Or, more shockingly, stepped forward to address the real problem.
We’ve had 28 shootings this year, each within the vicinity of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Based solely on the law of averages, I am thinking by June 11 we could have about two dozen more if things simply remain status quo. I’m not talking about a “tiny minority of black youths in street gangs;” yesterday’s shooting was believed to have been between grown men in their 30s.
Quit the silly debate and this senseless waste of time and effort. The Bessie Smith Strut, as we have known it for almost three decades, is over so go ahead and take your pick how it will actually end: “Sadly” or “Very Badly."