Street melee shows city needs to refocus

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Tribune editorial board

What is the world coming to in Ironton? A weekend bar fight escalated to a massive street brawl in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Yes, mere hours before many of its citizens awoke to attend church services, two Ironton police officers found themselves in the center of a dangerous situation. Facing somewhere between 100 and 200 people in the streets - no one bothered to stop and count them - Ironton's complete night shift attempted to gain control of an out-of-control situation. The melee forced the night shift, both officers, to call for help, in a big way.

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With only two officers on patrol the woefully understaffed department sought help from all over the place. Law enforcement agencies from all across the Tri-State rushed to their aid.

For that, we thank them. Their help may have saved a life. It is, however, unfortunate that our police had to call for help in the first place. Emergency services often take a backseat to more pressing funding matters, especially when budgets get tight. The fact is, however, their absence is one of those things that isn't easily missed until something bad occurs, such as when a mob starts fighting in the streets.

The incident made us a bit ashamed of how our city has been operated and how we've spent taxpayer money.

For years politicians have cried, "We need jobs. We must have jobs." While we appreciate their sentiment, a community without proper protection is a city that will retain few jobs, let alone attract new ones. Prospective businesses look to a community in which a good quality of life is easily apparent.

Fighting mobs, presumably at least some of whose members were intoxicated, do not foster economic growth. We realize funds are tight in the city, but the city leaders must face the issue and make some tough choices. Since members of the city council cannot agree upon a quick way to generate some funds - creating a municipal fee for example, we'd look for other revenue sources. Start generating money by implementing a fine - a hefty fine - for bars and nightclubs that constantly tax police resources by using public servants as public bouncers. Cannot control your patrons? Expect police to do it for you? That's fine. Just be prepared to pay for the services. Next up, make sure all of the city's laws and codes are enforced.

The weekend melee should point out a huge problem, and potential liability, facing the city of Ironton - making it a safe place in which to live.