The front-page story about Pocket Park on Nov. 2 reveals an astonishing lack of understanding of the dynamics which lead to public inebriates hanging out there. Why do they gather there? There are at least seven bars and two package liquor stores within 200 feet of those park benches.
The proposed remedies of making Pocket Park a prettier place with art, landscaping, a fountain and more lighting will do nothing to change this. In fact, they might even make it worse. The water in the fountain will become yellow, if you know what I mean. Also, where there is a fountain, people will throw money into it. I can't wait to see the letters to the editor about that ("I was disgusted to see drunk people splashing in the fountain after dimes and nickels.")
Some have suggested moving the Glory Hole as a means of cleaning up downtown. Public inebriates do not gather in downtown because of the Glory Hole. I have been to the Glory Hole many times, and I have never seen alcohol served there. I have worked with many intoxicated people in Juneau and not one has told me they hang out downtown because of the Glory Hole.
Why are they there? It's kind of like what the bank robber Willie Sutton said when asked why he robs banks. He answered, "That's where the money is."
Why are there drunks downtown? Because that's where the alcohol is. If you wanted to intentionally design a place where public intoxicated people would gather, you could not have done a better job than put a bunch of benches that close to liquor stores and bars. Simply shrinking the size of the benches and making it prettier isn't going to make the public inebriates go elsewhere.
Close down the bars and liquor stores in downtown and the public inebriates will disappear from that area.
Of course, that will never happen.
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