Friday night on the Lower Greenville frontier

Dallas City Council Rep Angela Hunt kicks some (gl)ass on Lower Greenville

By Diana Souza, President, Belmont Neighborhood Association and third-generation Lower Greenville resident

Here in the buffer zone called Lower Greenville, we're living on the edge.

Mere blocks north, the M Street neighbors enjoy peace and quiet, can go to bed early on the weekend.

But here within two blocks of lower Greenville's Let's Get Drunk Zone, we're busy calling the police and flushing miscreants out of our yards, while being able to hear – from inside our houses – every song in the set list of the live bands on patio rooftops of the bars. Repeated exposure to the edge wears up the emotional calluses, it makes you tough. Like deputies in the Old West, the activists over here are on non-stop vigilance to preserve what's left of the shreds of civilization.

Our peace has been taken apart piece by piece. Finding fellow defenders among our city representatives and the police force continues to be part of our struggle. This weekend was one of the worst of the year, when all the drunken football fans from Texas–OU weekend converged on Lower Greenville. Football enthusiasts seem to have a special talent for noise and aggressive behavior, and they converged at full pitch this weekend on our neighborhood.

Take note: We still consider this to be a Neighborhood, not an Entertainment District, a fact that the bar owners and clientele do not share with us. Once in a rare while, someone will emerge from the ranks of our city representatives who shows an interest in experiencing our pain firsthand, and attempting to intercede on our behalf. Fortunately for us, two such defenders surfaced this weekend.

I live one block away from Lower Greenville. Many stories could be told of misadventures here in the heart of the 'hood. Here's one of the rare stories of a night we actually received some hands-on help.

By 10pm Friday night, the volume level was already blasting at a higher than usual pitch, coming from a couple of bar rooftops. The recommended procedure for effectively reporting disturbances of this sort is to dial 911 and have the officer who is dispatched to the scene call you with the report number. Then, it's a good idea to dash off an email to your city councilperson with the report number and a description of the incident so that a record can be established. The police know about the loud noise but they put the burden of proof on us.

By the time I received the report number from the police and sent an email to my city council rep, it was 11pm and the noise volume was still wall-penetratingly high. That's all I expected to be doing that night to deal with the chaos. I figured the white noise of the air conditioner and maybe some ear plugs would resolve the noise problem until the bars shut down around 2pm.

So I was surprised when I got a phone call a little after 11pm from Dallas City representative Angela Hunt. I got your email, how's the noise over there now? No change, still so loud I can hear it from inside my house, I sighed.

I think I'll come over, she said, and see for myself. I'm not happy to hear that you didn't get a good response from the police.

Well, I certainly can't say this ever happened before, a representative from city hall coming to gauge the extent of the disturbance and volunteering to come over and personally run interference! Sure enough, a few minutes later, Ms. Hunt arrived in the 'hood for a late night inspection. Endearingly, she was dressed for this descent into the trenches in a fashionable sweat suit with her engraved city hall name tag pinned to the sweatshirt. Bristling with an attitude of righteous indignation, she made it clear that she was not pleased with the party atmosphere polluting our residential street.

We proceeded to stroll down to the avenue to see what we could find out. On the way, we passed the wretched gravel parking lot of a local drinking establishment, whose attendant greeted us. When Ms. Hunt asked him how much they were charging to park a car, he replied $8. Ms. Hunt, soliciting a reiteration, asked him again, You're charging $8 to park a car? He then quickly answered, No, it's free parking!

By then he had noticed the city council name tag she was wearing. My, my, how swiftly things change on the streets of Lower Greenville, according to whatever scam of the moment might be useful. One minute it's eight dollars to park a car, the next minute it's free!

Arriving at the corner of Oram and Greenville, we quickly flushed Dallas Police Sgt. Walter Clifton out of the crowd. Always a Southern gentleman, Sgt. Clifton expressed his solidarity with our concerns and offered to speak with the proprietors of the noise perpetrators in question. He also assured us that anytime they heard from neighbors like myself, the police could intervene and quiet down the bars, but unless we called and filed a complaint, the police were not at liberty to take action to restore the peace.

We all need to be asking why the police in Dallas's suburbs have authority to restore peace on their own initiative, as need be, but in the city of Dallas, where such an intervention is needed the most, the police aren't allowed to tell a business establishment to quiet down unless someone calls in a complaint?

As local resident and activist Joanne Rhone imploringly asks, Is our neighborhood some sort of wild free-for-all for the bars to make a buck and for the City to earn tax revenue? That's a rational conclusion to arrive at, from the evidence apparent on a Friday night at midnight on the corner of Oram and Greenville.

Ms. Hunt and I returned to my place, a block down the street, to wait a little while and see if the volume of the rooftop parties came down. Fifteen minutes later, no change was apparent, so Ms. Hunt headed back down to the avenue on her second reconnaissance mission of the evening.

Returning around 12:30pm, there was a noticeable reduction of the rooftop roar, the overall neighborhood volume was reaching a more reasonable level. Ms. Hunt and Sgt. Clifton had apparently had a few words with the right people this time, and a few wonders were worked.

No sooner than she had arrived back in front of my house than we heard the sharp shattering of beer bottles being heaved against the curb by intoxicated young males whooping, hollering and weaving their way drunkenly down my street, on their way back to their cars. They were punctuating the merriment of the evening by breaking bottles for the fun of it.

I overheard one of their female companions scolding them, "Hey, this isn't the French Quarter, you know!" This was surely the final affront to her evening on Greenville Avenue, because Ms. Hunt, without hesitation, set off at a brisk pace in pursuit of this group of bottle breakers.

Alone.

Into the darkened late night depths of the neighborhood.

Having lived through several years of being a pioneer here on the alcohol-driven frontier of Lower Greenville, I have learned that one cannot usually gain any satisfaction in confronting an inebriate about their bad behavior. In fact, it can be dangerous. So I was a little worried about our councilwoman heading off down the dark street on the heels of a group of drunken bad boys, but I recognized the righteous ire that was propelling her, having confronted quite a few out of control characters myself, over the years, before self-preservation started getting the best of me.

Cautiously standing by, I figured I'd give Sgt. Clifton a call and ask him to send a squad car down the street to back her up. Before I could reach him, though, about five minutes later, a small group appeared in the faint streetlight: Angela Hunt, Sgt. Clifton, and three drunk young men, followed by a slow-moving police squad car, brought back to the scene of the vandalism. They were supervised by one police sergeant and one city councilwoman while they cleaned up the broken glass on the sidewalk and in the street, illuminated by the headlights of the police car and Sgt. Clifton's flashlight.

Hallelujah! It's a rare treat to see such scamps being subjected to consequences for their abusive behavior.

By then, it was at least 1:30pm. I don't know whether the glass breakers were tested for alcohol levels before being allowed to go back to their cars. All I knew was that Angela Hunt had been a spirited and effective defender of the peace that wild night, and this isn't something we see much from City Hall: Actual hands-on participation in the relentless effort it takes to try and deal with the problems we face here every single weekend.

Thank you, Angela, you were awesome!

Please help us kick butt over here again sometime. Most of all, please help us get the existing laws enforced and some new laws passed that will motivate this out-of-control group of alcohol-driven business owners to wrap up their parties and take them out of our residential neighborhood, once and for all.

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Lower Greenville