Vex Harrow
Posted: September 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Subject: Vandalism and Funding Dim Yule Lights Prospects for Mill Ave

mill-avenue-night-lightsMill Avenue is a collision of multiple cultures and a forum for both fun and exchange. We see lots of people gathering who want to visit the bars, stand on street corners, or simply carouse and hang out with their friends. As a result of this mixing of locals and tourists from both Phoenix and the rest of the United States, we see our own share of crime.

Some of that crime, of course, takes the fashion of vandalism.

This happens to be the problem Mill Ave is facing this year regarding the lights that get hung over the Yule season to make the trees look like they’ve been dusted with snow. According to an article in the State Press, Nancy Hormann, president and executive director of Downtown Tempe Community, Inc., spoke in front of a city quality of life council meeting to address the problems vandalism has brought to the red bricks,

“For some reason this past year, we had an amazing amount of vandalism downtown,” said Hormann, referring to the holiday lights on Mill Avenue.

“It was an everyday occurrence with our contractor to fix the lights that went around the tree trunks, and we said we need to do something in order to change the design,” she said. “We had a tremendous amount of trouble when the bars closed … (Vandals) would pull (the lights) out, cut them, (and) take lights out of the sockets.”

Hormann said it cost $3,000 to $4,000 last year just to maintain the lights from vandalism damage.

I like driving down Mill Ave during the winter holiday and seeing those lights on the trees, it reminds me of distant days in the northern US when I experienced fog and light. Arizona isn’t for wont of fog, so much, so instead I use my imagination.

It strikes me that vandalism will happen. It saddens me that it was possible for $4,000 to happen from people just yanking down the lights and fixtures. Yes, most of the population has a tendency to act like toddlers and hang off everything they can—including the lampposts—but there’s no reason to rip down strings of lights wrapped around trees or take a swing at an unlit snowflake.

I am not a fan of The Festival Of Lights.

It’s a gigantic waste of electricity, even if it is essentially a marketing gimmick for APS. Yes, it’s pretty and interesting and brings interest to Mill Ave; however, we could do it much better with other things. In fact, the lights on Mill Ave are themselves expensive to operate and we might want to look into alternatives that use less electrical power for a similar effect.

The General Manager of Blondie’s Sports Bar and Grill on Fifth Street and Mill Avenue, Kevin Rodgers, weighed in on how drunk people behave on Mill Ave. “These people were ripping the decorations down, for no other reason but to be destructive,” he said.

As a result, the city will focus on decorations that are harder to damage.

Problems with vandalism have led Hormann and the DTC to focus clusters of star and snowflake-shaped lighting in the sidewalk tree canopies alone from Rio Salado Parkway to Third Street and Seventh Street to University Drive this year. Swooping lights will hang between Fourth Street and Seventh Street.

“We’re not going to put anything in the trees low enough to reach without a ladder,” Hormann said.

With luck, we’ll see the lights along Mill Ave return on the Saturday after Thanksgiving until they’re extinguished again after December 31. This has been a tradition for Tempe and Mill for the last 20 years.

I’ll see you then.

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