Why can’t we have nice things?

When I was in high school and on into my first two years of college, I played music in a band with my friends from Gadsden. We played all over the South, went up and down the East Coast and West as far as Arkansas, I believe.

But, loading and unloading the cargo trailer with all of our equipment each weekend was always the hardest and least fun part. We always had this one guy —my friend Jon or Andrew, primarily— who would slip and fall and knock over an amplifier, guitar or stack of drums, and someone would always say to him, “You see, this is why we can’t have nice things.”

We would all laugh at the joke, of course.

I was reminded of this again on Tuesday as I sat in the Fort Payne City Council work session. The council had talked for the past week about installing cameras in our city parks to prevent vandalism. Over the past year, there have been reports of vandalism at the park bathrooms, damage to Christmas lights, and then someone recently tore the drumsticks out of Mark Herndon’s hand at the Alabama band statues across from the DeKalb Theatre downtown.

So, installing cameras makes sense, right? There’s a big up-front cost —estimates are at around $37,000 for installation and then about $600-plus a month for service. Nice things are expensive, and apparently protecting them is expensive, too. The city can work that cost into its budget for next year.

Keep in mind, though, this money could be used in another way to improve a park. However, that money is going to be used to purchase cameras for the city, all because “we can’t have nice things.”

I use these parks all the time. I run and walk through, and I know I’ll feel better knowing there’s a camera that could be accessed by the city in case of an incident of violence or vandalism. But, it’s a shame that it’s even something we need to consider.

Councilman Red Taylor asked Councilman Johnny Eberhart on Tuesday in that work session if the cost to the city could be justified. Do we have enough vandalism to warrant the spending? It is a valid question. I felt the same way initially.

But, I liked Johnny’s answer.

He said, “Well, we’ve got some pretty nice things… and if anybody walks out with a [bathroom] sink, then we ought to be able to prosecute them.”

I agree with him. The council did, too, and those cameras will be installed in the next few months.

Maybe then we can finally have some nice things.

Bradley Roberts is managing editor of the Times-Journal. He can be reached at broberts@times-journal.com

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