I Need a Drink After This

I know this is showing my age, but when I was attending LSU, there was a bar in Tigerland called Sports Illustrated (where Reggie’s is today) that was the destination of many classmates on Thursday afternoon. What was so “special” about Thursdays there? Why, it was none other than perhaps the greatest drink “special” ever known to man: “Beat the Clock.”Starting at about 4pm (or whenever it was they opened) on Thursdays, certain drinks would be priced at some ridiculously low price, like around a quarter, as I recall it. Then, every hour, on the hour, the drink prices would go up a certain amount, until around 8pm, at which point the drinks would assume their normal prices. Thus the name “Beat the Clock.”I can remember many occasions hanging out in the lobby of my dormitory, watching guys being helped to their room by friends at 8:30pm because they went out and tried to beat the clock. Almost every time, they came back looking like the clock beat them. Ah, good times, good times.Well, thanks to the East Baton Rouge Metro Council, along with the urging of some well-intentioned but misguided civic groups, we now have a de facto beat the clock policy in effect for every bar in the parish, six days a week. (Don’t forget: Bars can’t open on Sunday. I know our friends from New Orleans are still having trouble wrapping their heads around that.) That’s because the Metro Council recently passed an ordinance prohibiting bars from offering any drinks after 10pm at less than 60% of the regular price.

The ordinance was proposed by Metro Council member Ulysses “Bones” Addison and was heavily supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the LSU Campus-Community Coalition for Change. The intent was to discourage binge drinking, especially at bars around campus, by banning late-night drink specials. Ironic, because I believe it will likely encourage binge drinking by putting a deadline on getting cheap drinks.

Imagine it’s 9:55pm, and you’re with friends at a place that offers dollar shots on a certain night. Before this ordinance, you had no reason to worry about the time. But now, you might look at your watch and realize, “Oh, sh–t! It’s almost ten! Bartender, here’s a Lincoln. Line me up five shots of Jager!” Kinda’ sounds like binge drinking, huh?

Now, you may be saying, “But Jeremy, I don’t go out and drink like that. It doesn’t affect me. In fact, I’m glad they passed it. It might lead to fewer drunks on the road.”

I agree. It might lead to fewer drunks behind the wheelÂ…at 2:15am. It also might lead to more drunks on the road at 10:15pm, right about the time youÂ’re coming home from dinner and a movie. DoesnÂ’t sound like such a great idea after all, does it?

Money for Nothing

In 1998, voters in East Baton Rouge Parish overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to increase the pay of Metro Council members to $1,650 per month. Since then, theyÂ’ve done nothing as a group to change the opinion of the electorate. In fact, many of their actions and statements of late make me think we should actually ask for a refund.

The first guy we should ask to pony up some of the taxpayers’ dough is Metro Council member Wayne “Spider” Carter for his role in getting the council to renege on a deal with the civic group A6 that could end up costing the parish $250,000. That’s how much it would cost to hold a special election to determine whether board and commission members should be limited to two consecutive terms. A6 claims it has approximately 18,000 signatures (almost 50% more than required) on a petition that would force the Council to call a special election for the issue within 90 days of the official filing of the petition.

In order to avoid the expense of a single-issue election, the mayorÂ’s office helped work out a compromise in the interim until the next regularly scheduled statewide election in September. The deal required the Metro Council to pass an ordinance requiring nine votes (instead of the usual seven) to reappoint someone to a third consecutive term on a board or commission.

Another part of the deal was a 60-day advertising period for all board and commission vacancies. The intent was to maximize the number of qualified applicants. When the Metro Council deadlocked on a couple of vacancies in February, the 60-day process had to start all over again. This apparently pissed off Carter and inspired him to get six other council members to join him in removing that aspect of the ordinance passed in “good faith.” So much for a gentleman’s agreement.

With the advertising-period requirement out of the way, Carter immediately got his man, Entergy spokesman Bill Benedetto, appointed to BREC. This also means that no advertising period is required at all. If a vacancy opens up, it could theoretically be filled the next day without those of us outside the loop even getting a whiff of being considered for the position.

After leading the doublecross and getting Benedetto appointed, Carter was reportedly heard boasting outside the Council Chambers, “Metro Council, 7; A6, 0.” Seems like old Spider needs to be reminded that the only score that counts is the final one. Just ask any Saints fan.

Carter’s brazen disregard for A6, its petition, and the compromise stems from his belief that the group is bluffing about the number of actual signatures it has acquired. He believes that many of them won’t be certified by the Registrar of Voters. Isn’t it ironic that, at the same time the ABC Board is doing everything it can to ensure that bars aren’t holding Texas Hold ‘em poker tournaments, a Metro Council member is wagering the taxpayers’ money by calling A6’s bluff?

The next guy that should give back some jack is Addison. As big as CarterÂ’s cahones might be, theyÂ’re dwarfed by BonesÂ’. How else do you explain some of the comments that he recently made about a proposed increase in the travel allowance of council members?

As it stands, council members are paid a $300 monthly salary, which I concede isn’t very much for the people in charge of the largest city in Louisiana. (Noticed that I said “in charge of” instead of “leading.”) But before you start collecting donations on the nearest street corner for your council member, keep in mind that they also get an $800 monthly travel allowance. That’s a total of $1,100 per month for a part-time “public servant.” Yet several council members, including Addison, feel underpaid.

The obvious remedy for this situation is to propose an increase in their base salary, which must be approved by the voters. However, Addison and his buddies figure that such a proposal would meet a similar fate as the last one of its type back in 1998.

So how does the Metro Council get more money without asking for the peopleÂ’s permission? The answer lies in the travel allowance. A proposed car allowance increase wouldnÂ’t have to go before the people. Instead, it would only require the approval of the State Legislature. I can smell the grease on the gears at the Capitol already.

As for the amount that these guys want to raise their travel allowance, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Greco suggested that maybe it should go up by $900 to $1,700 per month. That’s more than double the current allowance, for you math whizzes. When you add in the base salary, that’s $2,000 a month in total compensation for part-time “public servants.” Keep in mind that these people have day jobs.

Greco insists, “I don’t really need the money, but a lot of council members are really struggling. They’re not rich.” So Joe doesn’t need the money, but takes it anyway. Okeley-dokeley.

One of those “struggling” is Addison, who claims he’s barely getting by on $800. He said he’d gladly give up the $800 allowance if the city-parish provided a car, insurance, and gas. Unfortunately, I don’t think the city-parish could meet Bones’ standards in automobiles. “I drive a very big Mercedes Benz, and my maintenance and my fuel costs are way more than what I receive from the council to cover those expenses.”

You’ve got to be kidding, right? Man, no wonder he drives a “very big Mercedes.” It’s the only car large enough to accommodate his very large testicles. When I learned about this comment, the first thing that came to mind was the rap song “Real Big” by the Big Tymers: “House real big, cars real big, belly real big, everything real big.” Balls real big, too.

Addison says that the $300 salary hasn’t changed since the 1950s when Baton Rouge was a “one-horse town.” Here’s a tip for Addison and his cohorts: You’ll keep getting paid like the leaders of a “one-horse town” as long as you keep behaving like part of a horse.

Probably the most disappointing thing about this was learning about the comments of Council member Mike “Anakin Sky” Walker. As of late, he seems to have crossed over to the “dark side.” Concerning the payraise end run, he said, “We could double it, or we can go to $2,500 per month. If we get what we ask for from the Legislature, then I see no need to go to the people.” Unfortunately, the “Sith lords” appear to have used the “force” to sway him to their side. So much for that whole “will of the people” thing.

In my estimation, the only people in the Council Chambers who truly deserve a payraise are those poor women who sign the proceedings for the hearing impaired on the TV broadcast. I donÂ’t know what theyÂ’re paid, but I can guarantee itÂ’s not enough with Joe Greco running the show. Exactly how does one mumble in sign language? I donÂ’t think the universal translator from Star Trek would be able to decipher what heÂ’s saying sometimes.