August 24, 2005
Groups are often described in a certain totality when members of the group act in a particular way.
It is part of mankind’s ongoing adjustment to social structure that we do not always separate the actions of some from the actions of the whole or the philosophy of one moment from the philosophy of the entirety.
Two cases in point: the skateboarding community and downtown merchants.
Questions by one letter writer about intrusions downtown on free speech during First Friday, while pointing to what may be a potential concern, should be held up against the demonstrated commitment by merchants throughout Hood River to community programs. Community Work Day, For the River Day, Helping Hands Pie Contest, and First Friday itself are examples of events and programs that show the merchants’ adherence to diverse ideas and principles. If a few volunteers (not paid workers) are overly assertive in enforcing what is a new policy of orienting public expression, it should be regarded as an isolated incident that does not necessarily reflect on the entire group.
The Downtown Business Association does not aim to limit free speech; members have previously shown their commitment to that tradition. New policies for First Friday, put into effect by the association and the City of Hood River to reduce noise and limit wrongful use of alcohol, have also included designating areas for groups to do public outreach as well as specific locations for staging of live music.
The First Friday policies are a work in progress, and those who enforce them may need to refine them. Yet the group should not be painted in a negative light based on one incident.
As to skateboarders: over time, the group has been maligned for practicing their sport on stairways and other places where they should not go, but how much attention is paid to kids and adults who demonstrate their skills at places such as the skate park?
For one answer to that, see Adam Lapierre’s report on Mayonnaise Skate Jam, Skate jam spreads community spirit. This was a community event for experienced and fledgling skaters alike, and an important moment in the life of the skate park, an unheralded community treasure. The article contains information on how to get involved in making the park an even better place.
With a little light on any subject, and an acknowledgement of shifting needs and circumstances, labels can be avoided and individual and collective actions can be better understood.