by Gabrielle Finley and Eva Kis

October 11, 2007

Lakeland received a dubious award this month, joining the ranks of cities voted tops in Noise Free America’s Noisy Dozen.

The group claims, simply enough, to be “a national citizens organization opposed to noise pollution.” It seems Lakeland was nominated after a Ledger reader sent in a link to this short story from Sept. 15.

To summarize, shortly after midnight Michael Hyde of Lakeland approached a car that had been circling his Pinecone Drive neighborhood and demanded the two men inside turn down their music. According to the men, Daniel K. Skiff and Steven C. Ragsdale, both of Lakeland, when they tried to leave, Hyde pointed a shotgun at them.

Calling the pair “boom car thugs,” the organization’s press release quotes Ron Czapala, head of the No Boomers chapter in Louisville, Ky. “This story seems outrageous at first glance. However, it perfectly illustrates the frustration many people feel after years of being assaulted by vehicle noise from thumping bass and trash-can mufflers.” Pulaski, Va.’s Mike Smith, also an anti-noise activist, injected some dry humor – “It is clear that the pleas of Lakeland citizens for peace and quiet have fallen on deaf ears,” – before calling Skiff and Ragsdale practitioners of “noise terrorism.”

A little maturity on both sides could have gone a long way here. I do not know Mr. Hyde’s success (or lack thereof) with calling police for noise problems, but that would be my first recommendation. And to be fair, Mssrs. Skiff and Ragsdale may have broken the law, too – according to the City of Lakeland’s Special Events Application, sound constitutes a “noise disturbance” if it is “of such character, quantity, or duration as to unreasonably interfere with comfortable enjoyment of life or property.”

Noise Free America’s goals are lofty – Livability Courts will never be a reality until we start addressing the needs of existing offenders on a timely basis. But their plea to “Respect the Quiet” is, pardon the pun, sound.

So tell me, Polk County – where are the noisy neighborhoods?