Defusing Downtown Naperville

It took a couple of years, but Naperville city officials finally admit they have a problem with alcohol over-flowing in downtown Naperville. Unfortunately it took a few alcohol related deaths, a plethora of  street fights and bar brawls, along with an abundant number of police actions to come to this ultimate awareness. The Naperville city council and the liquor commission now know what residents have known for quite some time: something needs to be done. Downtown Naperville especially on weekends, is a not-so-friendly and safe area.

City officials want to regain control of the situation. One-half of the solution to a problem, is the awareness that a problem exists. So the city council is half way to solving it. The questions have been whether or not they have any idea of what to do, and if so, do they have what it takes to do what is necessary.

Simply stated, the downtown Naperville scene is ‘on fire’, and city officials started the fire. Councilman Steve Chirico said, “It seems like we’ve created sort of an environment that leads to the likely result of these fights and tragedies like we just experienced with the car crash (killing two people). Councilman Joe McElroy said, “The fact of the matter is when you get hundreds of drunk young people in a small tight area, you’re going to have problems.

During last Tuesday’s city council meeting, councilman Grant Wehrli  presented a very clear plan to douse the fire. The video clip is rather lengthy, however it’s important to hear it in its entirety:

There are a lot of moving parts to this plan, it’s complex, yet it may work.

However, Occam’s Razor (a scientific and philosophic rule) states, ‘The simplest of competing theories is preferred to the more complex.

Fire requires three components, heat, fuel, and oxygen. Omit any of the three, and fire won’t occur. In this case, ‘heat’ is the confined area of downtown Naperville, ‘fuel’ is the over-flowing alcohol, and ‘oxygen’ is the high number of people at night in downtown Naperville . Again, omit any of the three (confined area, abundant alcohol, lots of people) and the ‘fire’ (fighting, bedlam, chaos, and mayhem) won’t occur.

The confined area of downtown won’t change. The number of people won’t lessen, in fact, with more building (Water Street Project etc.), the number of people will increase. That just leaves over-flowing alcohol as the one component that can be reduced to the point of dousing the fire.

Listen to Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall’s response to council member Judith Brodhead when she asks the rhetorical question about the lack of alcohol related problems during the high density festivals of Ribfest and The Last Fling:

Now combine that comment with Wehrli’s vision (above) of having a predominantly retail mix in downtown Naperville, and having retail be the driving factor to why people would come to the downtown area. Shutting off the alcohol pipeline earlier, and begin to reduce the number of liquor licenses available in downtown Naperville. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s doable and solvable.

The question remains. Is the Naperville city council willing to do what is necessary to solve the problem? The bars won’t like it. The restaurants won’t like it. The restaurant association won’t like it. The liquor commission won’t like it. The ‘high rollers’ won’t like it. The trouble-making drinking crowd won’t like it.

Naperville residents and families will like it, responsible adults will like it, safety-conscious visitors will like it, and the remaining reputable bars and restaurants will like it.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliana made it happen in Times Square; he turned a bigger problem around and solved it. Our Naperville city council can also make it happen.  Occam would be proud.

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