Columbia black community leaders disagree on proposed changes to a troubled neighborhood park.
Douglass Park has a reputation for attracting drug dealers, alcoholics and troubled teens.
A proposed alcohol ban has divided the people who use it.
Sam Brady is the coordinator of the Douglass Park Summer Baseball League. Brady said Sundayâ??s shooting in the park is just one more reason why he wants major changes. He said a ban on alcohol at the park would have a ripple effect on solving other problems. He supports having alcohol permits for special group occasions.
Brady said, â??To make our park a daily haven for our minorities to come here and become alcoholics and make mockeries of themselves is unfortunate. I think thatâ??s our first step. We need to weed this out of here.â??
Columbia black community leader Lorenzo Lawson disagrees with Brady. Lawson said a harmless older crowd likes to hang out and drink in the parkâ??s shelter. He said more police would help prevent crime at the park, not a ban on alcohol.
Lawson said, â??There was a shooting downtown. Why donâ??t we ban drinking downtown? I never heard anybody propose that when we have a shooting downtown. Come on. Thatâ??s ridiculous.â??
Douglass Park has 5 video surveillance cameras. Columbia Police have stepped up their patrols. Still, the park has a bad reputation because of its history of crime and violence. Lawson said the park is safer today than it was 10 years ago because it has free lunch programs for children, a playground, a swimming pool and a baseball field.
Lawson said, â??I donâ??t feel like this is a place where I canâ??t bring my grandkids and that itâ??s not safe enough.â??
Brady fears a child might get hurt or killed if something doesnâ??t change.
Brady said, â??Our black leaders are saying that itâ??s racist to change these mindsets and take alcohol from this park. I think we are being racist against our own race. I feel like we are hurting our own people.â??
Some Columbia City Council Members said they are taking a serious look at banning alcohol at Douglass Park because it is a high risk, low income area.