The Azalea City has gotten a lot of ink and publicity lately in all different colors and flavors and from a variety of sources. From the great news about the Carnival contract making the pages of travel industry publications and blogs, to the Airbus inauguration filling the pages of the Sunday New York Times and newspapers around the globe, we’ve looked pretty darn sexy in the print medium of late.
And speaking of sexy, even hunky Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds, who shot a film here last year, called our fair burg “gorgeous” and “stunning” via the electronic media, giving us a shout-out earlier this week on “Live with Kelly and Michael.” We feel the same about you, Mr. Reynolds. We do indeed.
But, the press hasn’t been all gorgeous and stunning, or without controversy.
This most recent Mobile media extravaganza began with a visit by Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump last month. And it was, without a doubt, a circus.
I think it’s entirely possible, when we look back on this election a year or so from now, we may find Trump was hitting the Mobile stump nearing the height of his popularity — not that it has waned (yet). So it is understandable a level of hysteria ensued in the Port City like we have never seen for a stop by a party’s presidential candidate, or even a nominee. While poor Mitt Romney could barely fill up the parking lot of The Whistle Stop, people expressing interest in seeing the Trumpster soon began to outnumber space in hotel ballrooms and seats in the civic center theater and convention center.
So with an expected crowd of around 40,000 or so, the event was moved to Ladd-Peebles stadium. Officials, who took note of the unprecedented excitement, ended up spending nearly $17,000 from the city coffers to make sure the event went smoothly, the crowd was controlled and we exhibited “Southern hospitality.”
But by the time Trump circled his private jet around the stadium, it was clear people were more excited about printing out their free tickets to the event than actually showing up. (And it was outside in August, with a chance of rain.) But with that said, he did draw about 10-15K, which, don’t get me wrong, is still an astonishing amount — but less than half of what was expected.
Since the event, Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his administration have taken some heat for spending this kind of city coin on a political “pep rally,” especially for a self-proclaimed billionaire candidate who is proud of saying he is so rich he doesn’t have to take anyone’s money. While Trump did provide some of his vast fortune to cover stadium rental, parking and buses, the city added more and also paid for police overtime and “king cakes in a jar” for the national media.
Some residents are outraged even a dime of taxpayer money was spent on a presidential candidate at all — not an elected official or dignitary or even nominee — especially one who has said some pretty outrageous stuff. Others are more understanding of the police and busing. After all, if the crowd wasn’t controlled properly it could have negatively affected or endangered our citizens, no matter what their political persuasion.
Actually, the most grousing I have heard is about the smallest line item — $1,115 for the goodies for the press. (Don’t worry we weren’t bought here at the Lagna-doodle with jarred king cakes — they were just for the fancy, schmancy out-of-town media.)
But I tend to agree with that assessment and it’s not just because I have Trump king-cake-in-a-jar envy, which I do. It was just a totally unnecessary expense. They weren’t travel writers penning a piece on the Azalea Trail, the returning cruise ship or Mobile’s Carnival history, they were professional journalists covering a campaign and the words falling out of the mouth of said campaigner.
And it kind of sets a bad precedent.
So now, in the interest of fairness, are we going to be providing the same confections (or confections of equal value) for the press following Biden (maybe), Bush, Clinton, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Fiorina, Graham, Huckabee, Jindal, Kasich, Pataki, Paul, Rubio, Sanders and Santorum if they happen to make it to the City of Six, I mean, Five, Flags?
That’s a whole lotta king cake.
But still others argued it was a small price to pay for getting such great national media exposure. Maybe. If you think the exposure was positive. But that delicious king cake sure didn’t prevent the Washington Post from writing an insulting article based on a photograph which made one of our residents look like some sort of Trump-crazed lunatic, when by her own account she doesn’t even know who she is voting for and the photographer just happened to catch her face at the very second she said she was laughing at just how crazy the moment was.
But of course, it was just too tempting and easy for said out-of-town media to mock us and portray us all as crazed hicks. And even after we showed them our Southern hospitality and gave them king cakes! I hoped they choked on the babies. I suppose it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but I get people being a little perturbed by the expenditure.
Speaking of peturbiness or peturbitude (Yes, I’m making up words, but I can because I’m part of the local hick press!), the ink we received from a Seattle Times columnist got folks all fired up last week, including the mayor and Congressman Bradley Byrne.
I was more bored with the column than outraged. It really didn’t offer anything but a re-hashing of right-to-work states versus those with labor unions, as well as a critique of the incentive packages Southern states have been offering to manufacturers.
I feel like I’ve heard this before. (And hey dude, for the record, none of us particularly enjoy bending over for these companies, but the feeling I get — and I could be wrong — is that ginormous companies aren’t really too fond of having to deal with those “pesky” unions of yours either, so maybe we’re all just getting screwed one way or another.)
Anyway, the most insulting thing Mr. Jon Talton said was “you get what you pay for” in reference to the Alabama workforce. Yawn. Where have I heard that one before? Oh yes, from their gorgeous and stunning senator Patty Murray who during the Great Airbus/Boeing Tanker Battle of 2009, said “I have stood on the line in Everett, Washington, where we have thousands of workers who go to work every day to build these planes. I would challenge anybody to tell me that they’ve stood on a line in Alabama and seen anybody building anything.”
Lord, these people need to get some better and/or more original material. For the love of God, Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn, some of us can actually tie our own shoelaces and even go to the bathroom inside … on the toilet!
Anyway, Mr. Talton, we shall see how this all plays out in the coming years. I believe our poor dumb workforce will be kicking the crap out of your elite “aerospace cluster” sooner rather than later. And the proof will be in the pudding, or I guess in this case, the king cake (in a jar).