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Hoops, Justice and a Place to Play

It is great to see basketball back at Memorial Park. Tip of my Webb Weekly cap to Mayor Gabriel Campana and his efforts on getting this done.

When the basketball hoops were taken down a few years back, I was not a fan of the decision. I reached out to Mayor Campana and let my feelings be known. My thoughts were that basketball and as many places to play as possible, strengthen the community — the more opportunity for young people to focus on something positive and get exercise the better.

For some, basketball is the only thing that keeps them out of trouble. Obviously, at the time, I got nowhere with the Mayor, and I even heard from a few neighbors of Memorial Park who considered basketball the root of all evil. That it was a drawing card to those who wanted to misbehave and partake in illegal activities — drugs being the primary concern.

I have never subscribed to that type of thinking. To blame basketball is the equivalent of blaming a firearm for gun violence, not the person holding the gun. It makes no sense.

What a basketball court — or any park — provides is an area for people to gather. Anytime you have more people at a location there is more of an opportunity for any illegal activity to occur. This includes littering, which takes place at every park in the Country. The most important thing to discourage this, whether it’s at a park or a local neighborhood, is community vigilance.

Obviously, I’m not talking about the nine-year-old kid dribbling and shooting a basketball or riding his bike in his neighborhood. It’s the older generations that are playing hoops at the park or maybe enjoying their front porch on a nice spring day that must get involved.

It all begins with identifying the problem to a person of authority. It doesn’t have to be to the police if it’s a simple, everyday problem. If a person does not feel comfortable contacting local law enforcement, they should reach out to a local community leader. Let them pass the information on to the authorities. And by a community leader, I mean it can be anyone close to the park or neighborhood, from that more seasoned individual that just always seems to be around, to a local priest or minister, maybe a City Council member — whoever an individual feels comfortable talking with. The important thing is that a small problem doesn’t grow unchecked.

If a location is identified as a problem, whether it is a basketball court or a street corner, it is then up to the local police to then address the issue. If the wrong element knows that an area is being watched and protected, they will probably move to a point of less resistance. In the same breath, if it is known there is a gathering of the wrong element at a certain location, with proper police surveillance and due diligence it should be easier to eliminate the problem.

In the world of today, it is impossible to keep any park or neighborhood safe without a community effort. It doesn’t matter where it’s located. There are just too many issues and people of concern.

Back to Mayor Campana. He did the right thing returning basketball to Memorial Park. One thing that jumped out to me as this process was ongoing was how politics became a game of convenience. How individuals that battled the Mayor not to remove the hoops, now fought the Mayor on their return. Even something as simple as basketball for the local kids became a game of political football. I would like to point these individuals out, but what’s the point? The hoops are up. Maybe the time to do this is when I explain why Alize Johnson’s state-of-the-art basketball facility is at Firetree Place and not in a Williamsport City Park.

On a positive note, the only person that doesn’t make a mistake is the individual that does nothing. I never held any malice toward Mayor Campana after my words fell on a deaf ear about removing the hoops. I think he believed at the time it was the right thing to do. I think it’s much more important that he has realized the best thing for the community is a place where anyone can play basketball.

One of my frustrations with government at every level currently is the lack of respect and compromise the elected have for each other. A difference of political opinion should never create long-term division or a grudge of hatred. Sometimes mistakes are made, opinions change or the passing of time presents a different answer. The elected need to work together in a timely manner for what’s best for “We the People.” This is true from Williamsport to Washington.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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