Our Opinion: Tattoo reveals differing visions of community's future

A tattoo being applied in a downtown storefront during last week’s Living Windows event is getting a lot of ink.

A story published in Tuesday’s edition and posted on our website attracted 63 comments as of Thursday morning.

How does a single tattoo attract such impassioned debate and generate community controversy?

We suggest the episode is about much more than a tattoo.

It is about friction resulting from differing viewpoints about what we want our community to be. It also is about whether those differences can coalesce into a shared vision.

“Family-friendly” is the compound adjective often used to describe Jefferson City.

Residents want that description to be appropriate both now and into the future.

Recently, an initiative promoted by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce encourages young professionals to locate or relocate here to pursue their careers. In essence, “family-friendly” is being extended to embrace not only younger families, but younger singles.

Singles congregate in bars, which have proliferated in the downtown area. At least six bars operate in two blocks of East High Street. Add side streets and restaurants that serve alcohol, and the total rises to a dozen venues that serve alcohol.

In addition, a recent combined chamber/city government initiative permits the creation of festival districts, which allow people to stroll downtown streets while sipping alcoholic beverages.

Tattoos are another trend embraced by young people and, in response, several tattoo parlors — including one downtown — have joined the business community.

At a recent community event displaying scenes in downtown windows, the tattoo parlor featured in its window a woman receiving a tattoo on her hip.

The ensuing public debate focuses on whether the episode was appropriate.

We believe the specific incident symbolizes a larger issue concerning whether, and how, we want our community to change to accommodate popular culture.

Can Jefferson City remain “family-friendly” and attract young professionals?

Is the community willing and able to adapt to popular trends, including those that conflict with traditional values?

Where do we draw the line?

As the existing controversy indicates, many opinions — including opposing viewpoints — will be advanced.

The challenge for us as a community is to determine if we can find common ground and shared goals as we move into the future.

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