Adding insult to injury

Proposed tax to fund downtown safety plan is too burdensome

On May 3, a couple was brutally beaten with a metal bat on Augusta’s Riverwalk. The savage attack shocked the city.

But now Augusta officials want to turn around and take a club to downtown property owners.

The sheriff and city administrator have put forth a plan to tax downtown property owners for stepped-up law enforcement.

What an incredible insult. They want to tax the very business people and property owners who are hurt the most by downtown crime?

More than that, it’s a horrible precedent. Is there any other area of the city that is asked to pay more for law enforcement?

If the city needs more money to make downtown safer – which is, after all, a good part of the city’s job – then levy a tax on all taxpayers. Making the Riverwalk or any area of the city safer benefits the entire populace. Taxing one segment of the population to get it done is a reprehensible idea.

And, again, what a dreadful precedent. Should we also charge other problem areas higher taxes for police protection? Do we really want to go down that road?

Downtown property owners only recently managed to end a voluntary tax they had graciously put on themselves for increased cleanup, maintenance and security. They ended it because the program didn’t live up to its promise, and ended up being just another tax.

This is no time to try to burden them again.

Besides, higher taxes, in our view, would be most counterproductive in fighting crime.

That’s because the long-term answer to making Riverwalk and nearby downtown destinations safer is to draw more people there. There is safety in numbers. Had the Riverwalk had the vitality of riverside attractions in cities such as Savannah and Greenville, S.C., it’s doubtful such a brazen attack as the May 3 one would even be attempted.

We need more people living downtown, and particularly along the riverfront – which is arguably blighted. Higher taxes is no way to lure them there.

The safety plan put forth also recommends closing Riverwalk in the wee hours – from 11 p.m. to sunrise (we would suggest midnight might be better). One supposes such a move might help. Still, it does feel an awful lot like surrender.

Chasing law-abiding citizens away at night – and, worse, hitting some of them over the head with higher taxes – is a pretty odd way of fighting crime.

It’s more like adding insult to injury.

Sheriff proposes downtown safety plan, new tax to fund it
Downtown safety plan to be unveiled
Late-night walkers robbed downtown
Most downtown crime occurs after midnight
Couple attacked on Riverwalk Augusta

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