It has been well over a year since the Coventry curfew was instituted, and, thankfully, most of the Cleveland Heights community has moved past the events that led to the curfew being put into place. However, that does not mean that we can choose to collectively forget the rules the city began enforcing in the aftermath of the 2011 street fair. The new city curfew ordinance, which explicitly bans adolescents from Coventry, Cedar Lee, and Severance between the hours of 6PM and 6AM, was created in an effort to ensure peace in the community and to satisfy local businesses. The general consensus seems to be that the ordinance has worked, but, if viewed from the perspective of an area teenager, the reason that the ordinance has been so effective is that the problem it addresses never really existed.
Few of us are going to forget the 2011 fair anytime soon. That fair, which saw record attendance in addition to numerous arrests amid a tense, overcrowded atmosphere, came on the back of prior disturbances at the final 2010 fair. Community leaders were nervous about the trend, and city government acted quickly to address the problem - by forbidding area teens from access to the businesses that they support and the gathering spots that their presence enlivens. It is not difficult to conclude that this well-intended approach was mistaken.
Those arrested at the 2011 fair were primarily targeted for loitering, as they refused to leave promptly when it came time for businesses to take down the fair stands. Yes, it is true that those detained by the police were by and large teenagers, and that their behavior was responsible for derailing further street fairs that year. But the fact remains that a moratorium on the Coventry fair was all that was needed to restore the general order, Further legislation just discriminates against those area teens who are a responsible and reliable source of business to local establishments. Banning those teens from business districts only removes a steady source of income from those businesses, while decentralizing Cleveland Heights’ vibrant community life and preventing the sort of creative socializing that is responsible for making our city the interesting, diverse destination that it is.
Cleveland Heights is not an average community, and Cleveland Heights teenagers are not average teenagers. For the last half century, Coventry has been a hotbed of artistic innovation, and teens have been responsible for fueling much of that trend. Our business supplies the cash flow to sustain local eateries and shops, and our company contributes to the development of a Cleveland Heights that is still youthful and dynamic, even while other cities throughout the Midwest lose touch with the younger generation. Those teens that visit Coventry regularly, and who are most affected by the ban, are upstanding members of that generation, not a source of trouble. Had that been the case, the youth of Coventry would have been excluded much earlier on. Teens who go to Coventry do so not to cause panic or incite violence, but because they love their city and they enjoy participating in its community. The time has come to realize that the teens of Cleveland Heights are our city’s future, not its enemies, and to rewrite the Curfew Ordinance.