September 16, 2008 |

Councilman Kraus should get his priorities right

I'm writing to bring to your attention the recent "witch hunt" some have encouraged Bruce Kraus to conduct – sweeping outside food merchants off Carson Street, and into their buildings. Mr. Kraus has opined that for too long, South Side's Carson Street has exuded an "air of chaos"…true enough.

His solution? DUI checkpoints, strategically placed? No.

Holding the bars/clubs to their legal obligation not to over-serve their patrons? No.

He chases food purveyors inside, literally photographing them himself. Mind you, these aren't mobile vendors, but restaurateurs, people who have invested in the community and are acting legally, within the law.

Yes, I'm one of these ones; so sure, I've got an axe to grind. If we were selling drugs or alcohol, Mr. Kraus' course of action would be justified, but we're all selling food, and his actions are getting silly.

Think: When is the last time you saw anyone intoxicated on food?!

Think again: Would you rather have drunks driving through your neighborhoods with nothing but alcohol in their bellies? Or, would you rather they got in line, ordered some food and sobered up?

When I mentioned this to Mr. Kraus he glared at me as if my point was absurd. My best friend (and former South Side resident) Jack Trimble lost his fiancé and their unborn child to such a drunk driver, who'd passed out behind the wheel of his Cadillac.

I find nothing absurd about drunk drivers. What is absurd is restaurants forced by Mr. Kraus to sell food from their doorways, like "speakeasies" during prohibition.

The bars on the South Side, some of which existed before me, are not going away any time soon, and anyone who stops to think wouldn't want them to, either. After all, these businesses are directly to thank for revitalizing the neighborhood and causing our property values to skyrocket. Also, these bars, clubs and liquor licensed restaurants are paying the drink tax money which is earmarked to subsidize our Port Authority Transit system.

While these bars have an obligation to act as responsible members of our community – an obligation we should hold them to – they are still members of our community, and they bring a considerable amount of "good" to go with the little bit of "bad."

No one denies the fact that the late-night weekend crowds on East Carson can be unruly. I deal with them every night. But moving food purveyors inside seems irrational and counter-productive. While both the energy and commitment Mr. Kraus brings to his appointment is admirable, it should be aimed more precisely at the cause of the problems.

When we elected Mr. Kraus to public office, we empowered him to act for us, but that doesn't mean he can act without us. We need to point him in the direction of the real problem, then support both him and our police in tackling it.

Dan McSwiggen

South Side

The writer is owner of Cambod-Ican Kitchen on East Carson Street.

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