Alaska Notebook: Town Square rowdies should face the music

AnchorageOctober 12, 2013 

Release the classics!

No question Town Square should be a peaceful place, not a refuge for lawless behavior or needles and spice. Ours wouldn't be the first town square to become a magnet for the lost and those who prey on them, or a venue for wayward youngsters. But the square was conceived as the heart of the city, a venue where good things would happen.

Now downtown merchants, police and city officials are looking for ways to clean up the square, and some of it seems to involve landscaping changes that would improve lines of sight, give less cover for illicit activity, take away fears of ambush and in the process eliminate much of the square's charm.

That's if such landscaping would be legal, given the rules laid down at the park's founding.

I don't know how all that will play out. More enforcement sounds better than a flattened square shorn of foliage. This is only a block after all, and we know where to look for trouble.

But one idea sounds good right now. Nancy Harbour, president of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, said the center plans to fire up its outside speaker system to play the works of some of the world's greatest composers. This has had some success in cities around the world -- transit stations, street corners, 7-Eleven parking lots.

The masters may not put all bad actors to flight, but as Anne Midgette pointed out in a 2012 Washington Post column, music and art have the power to define a space. Beethoven's "Pastoral" just isn't a soundtrack for gangs or drugs -- maybe in the Sixties, but not today. Think of a thug humming along with "Song of India." Unlikely.

On the other hand, if music does indeed have power to soothe the savage heart, or a broken one, what better venue?

If nothing else we could stream KLEF's programming to Town Square. And with Halloween coming, station owner Rick Goodfellow might even summon a haint or two from his Anchorage ghost tour to back up patrols and pre-empt police calls.

Wise up, young rowdies. Hear the music, ere you have to face it.

-- Frank Gerjevic


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