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Teen curfews are bogus

by Brian Clarey

editorial

The teenager in us is outraged in the way only teenagers can be: sputtering, impotent, unable to enunciate our rage, aghast by the depth of the unfairness.

It is that teenager in us who knows that the new curfew being imposed in downtown Greensboro is totally bogus and very, very lame.

And unlike when we were actual teenagers, this time we are right. A quick, informal survey of the YES! Weekly staff reveals that, to a one, we enjoyed life after dark before we reached our 18 th birthdays. We had part-time jobs. We stayed up waiting for concert tickets. We went to plays and movies, attended midnight pep rallies and late-night sporting events and went to the diner afterwards for fries with gravy. We hit house parties, cruised around listening to music and — some of us, anyway — were even able to talk or way into bars.

And each of us remembers these teenage nights as integral to our transition into adulthood.

What we didn’t know as teenagers is that what we would have considered bad for us is also bad for business — certain businesses, anyway, like T-shirt shops, pizza places, sandwich joints, all-ages music venues, bowling alleys… anywhere teenagers congregate when they’re too old to be home in bed but too young to get into a bar.

Contrary to what Randall Kaplan told city council, there are plenty of things teenagers can do legally when downtown after 11 p.m. — at least, until Jan. 1, 2011, when teens will be breaking the new city ordinance just by showing up.

But the curfew ordinance is not just bad short-term government, it is bad long-term city planning. For a decade now we’ve been bemoaning the fact that young people don’t want to stay in Greensboro during their twenties, and we go ahead and give the kids growing up here a targeted ordinance —which, it should be said, all parties agree does nothing to curb the issues downtown has been having lately — that further marginalizes their status and leaves the proverbial bad taste in their mouths.

That’s how our inner teenagers feel, anyway. But even as adults, there is not much for us to like about the curfew.

It turns our police into night watchmen, checking kids’ ID cards when they should be doing the serious business of, you know, policing the district, not to mention that very few teens carry ID. It attempts to place blame — or at least punish — a cohort that has little to do with downtown’s woes but has no recourse against it because they cannot vote.

Yes, there is a long list of exceptions to the curfew rule, long enough to ensure that when a cop does stop a teenager downtown after 11 p.m., it will take like 20 minutes to ascertain whether the kid has the legal right to be there or not. We submit that this list of exceptions — which includes working, exercising First Amendment rights, being with an adult, having a note from an adult, being married, attending a school function or obtaining a permit — is ample evidence that this new ordinance is bulky, impractical and just plain ridiculous.

We are thankful it has a sunset date of one year, just after the next council elections. Make no mistake: This one will be an election issue. Even the teenagers know that.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration

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