Kareem Johnson | Digital Journalist

Mayor’s Task Force Examines Youth in the Loop

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | March 11, 2011

Thursday night’s meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Seniors & Youth focused primarily on the latter.

The focal point being youths in the Loop.

Concerns have centered on a small percentage of youths that disruptive — and how that gives The Loop a “negative perception by patrons.”

At a previous task force meeting, Patrick Liberto, owner of the Meshuggah Café, said he felt that youths have no place to go, with malls discouraging their patronage. The Loop is attractive, he said because there are clothing, music stores, and salons that  cater to younger people.

The task force asked Liberto if he had any recommendations, and he suggested getting kids involved in activities, such as theatre or sports.

Thursday’s guest speakers included Associate Professor of Social Work Dr. Jack Kirkland of Washington University and Jason Baucom of the Parks and Recreation Department.

“You really can’t stop young people from going or being where they want to be,” said Kirkland. He suggested the idea of “observing, rather than watching.” He said the task force could assign concerned citizens to observe youths, to serve as a deterrent for disruptive behavior.

Jen Jensen, one of the task force members suggested bringing back the neighborhood watch. Beverly Sporleder, one of the attendees, suggested the idea of having corners where youths could engage in creative activities, as well as community art schools.

The group also talked about the fact young people are not using the Centennial Commons. Jason Baucom mentioned that the Commons requires a resident or nonresident ID to use and that the costs vary.  He also added that the Commons has tried many approaches to get youths in, but concedes that it has been difficult.

The next task force meeting is scheduled for April 4th at 6:30 in the EOC Room of City Hall.

University City Mayor Shelley Welsch created the task force. The group’s objective is to examine “the needs of each group that are currently not being met or fulfilled by the existing assets available.”


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