After fielding complaints about persistent loitering in bus shelters in the downtown area, city officials in Ravenna took drastic action to remedy the situation: They promptly removed both shelters.
The city acted after petitioners complained that the shelter on the north side of West Main Street had become a gathering place for "undesirables" -- their term, not ours -- and urged action to put an end to the situation. Another shelter, located on the opposite side of the street in front of the Portage County Courthouse, also was removed despite the fact that it was not a focus of the complaints.
Some observers have remarked that they've rarely seen such a prompt response by local government.
While those who complained about the shelters may laud the city's action, the "solution" to the problem may have created another one.
The bus shelters -- which were a fixture in downtown Ravenna for more than 20 years -- are gone, but the bus stops served by PARTA remain there. And that means those who rely on public transportation will continue to wait for buses there, but without any protection from the elements.
Many who ride the bus do so because they have no other means of transportation. The ridership includes elderly people, disabled people, mothers with small children and many who, frankly, cannot afford automobiles.
None of these people, in our estimation, deserves to be stigmatized as "undesirables," a harsh, judgmental term. But all of them, because of the complaints about "loitering," can now look forward to waiting for the bus in the months ahead in rain, snow and cold weather with neither a place to stand nor sit.
That isn't right.
Surely there could have been a less punitive response to the issues raised by the petitioners. Couldn't an occasional police patrol have addressed the loitering issue? If the problem was people sitting in the bus shelters all day long, perhaps the seating could have been removed, leaving a basic haven from the elements.
The answer, it seems, was to punish the innocent for the alleged transgressions of a handful. Those who were so quick to pursue action obviously have never waited for a bus in the rain or snow.
We hope city officials can come up with a better solution, with as much expediency as they showed in their response to the alleged loitering.