Until 2008, neighborhood block parties were such a priority in Colorado Springs that the parks department had a program and coordinator to facilitate two dozen or so requests received each year.
It was based on the idea that neighborhoods function better — they are safer and problems get solved at a one-on-one level more easily — if folks get to know each other.
And you are less likely to call cops when the music is too loud. (You’ll probably walk over and ask them to turn it down. Or you will be at the party and enjoy the music!)
Today, that concept is known as a “community building.”
Anyway, the city valued and encouraged you to make friends with your neighbors. And your life was enriched.
But in 2008 the budget ax fell and the parks department staff was slashed. It could no longer afford a block party program and coordinator to process permit applications, collect the $25 fee, underwrite the insurance for street parties, alert emergency agencies of closures, schedule delivery and removal of barricades and subsidize the cost of these activities.
Those duties have fallen to the police department. The process is no longer a simple one.
So many have stopped asking permission and started holding rogue parties.
They put out trash cans and lawn chairs to block their streets and eat, drink and dance. No permits. No fees. No ridiculous red tape.
But no coordination with emergency services, either.
The police recognize this is a problem and recently asked the City Council to adopt a new ordinance defining how parties should be handled.
The ensuing discussion offered an interesting glimpse of our new council.
Bernie Herpin, Jan Martin, Brandy Williams and Lisa Czelatdko want to encourage block parties.
“To me, it’s a matter of informing the city that we would like to have a block party,” Herpin said. “Here’s the time, date and location. I’d rather see this an an informal thing, not asking permission. I think it got blown out of proportion.”
Then there’s Councilwoman Angela Dougan, who says city streets are for cars only.
“I’d rather see an ordinance that we do not allow blocking off our streets,” she said. “If you do, we treat it like blocking a fire hydrant, we might just put a hose right through your car because it wasn’t supposed to be there.”
And call out the Gestapo?
Anyway, the council told police to rethink its ordinance and, more importantly, meet with the Council of Neighbors & Organizations to get input for the folks actually trying to build community. What a concept!
Just maybe, before the summer block-party-season is over, neighborhoods will finally know whether they can legally eat, drink and dance in the streets.