When my husband and I go to restaurants we always like it when we get a chipper, young server. I remember the first time it happened when we were together on one of our first dates. Frank said as she walked away to put in our order, “Isn’t she cute? You can tell life hasn’t beaten her down yet.”
I nodded in agreement and smiled knowingly, as I thought about just how hopeful and untarnished I, too, was at her age.
I know that makes us sound like rather pessimistic people, and we’re really not. We both started out as idealists and still are at heart. But the older you get, some of that idealism is definitely stripped from you as you repeatedly come across people and/or institutions who disappoint you with their actions — either personally or just witnessing from afar. And even when you disappoint yourself. I don’t think it makes you so much a pessimist but a realist.
And there is no arena that can destroy your faith in humanity, truth, justice and the American way faster than the political one.
There has been one incident that has unfortunately served to strip away a little more of my own sanguinity faster than any other has in recent years.
This happened during our very eye-opening treks to Montgomery, as Lagniappe was working to help support a law change that would allow us to compete for legal advertising. I won’t get into the ins and outs of the very antiquated law that should be changed, as that has already been done numerous times on the pages of this newspaper.
But before we ventured up I-65 over the course of several months, I did still have some faith in the legislative process. I know, I know, some of you are asking what sort of meds I was on to achieve such. It wasn’t meds but rather blissful ignorance. Sure, I knew the reputation the folks on Goat Hill have, but still somehow I thought my own personal experience — especially with our own local delegation — would somehow be different.
And because I naively thought this change was such a no-brainer. It was a good piece of legislation that would save the taxpayers money, it had the backing of the three biggest entities who need this type of advertising — the city, county and Mobile Bar Association — and an airtight argument on why this was the right thing to do. I foolishly thought “How could anyone hear the case for this bill and not want to change the law?” But that’s just it. Almost no one would even listen to us.
When we had a statewide bill, we quickly learned the old-school newspapers this antiquated law was designed to protect (so they wouldn’t have any competition) quickly called their own reps and made a lot of noise. You would have thought we’d contracted the Bubonic Plague as we ventured up and down the halls to talk to reps around the state. It was like they knew if they talked to us they would actually have to weigh the pros and cons of the bill. Gasp!
Somehow the phrase “oh, I am getting calls from home on this” became an acceptable and seemingly common excuse for them to just shut us down and ignore the bill instead of actually engaging in thoughtful consideration of it themselves.
We quickly realized it would be buried alive to die a slow death in a statewide committee. And it did.
But then it was suggested, by these lawmakers, that the law should be changed by our local delegation since this problem was affecting Mobile more than the rest of the state because of the problems that arose with the Press-Register’s mishandling of these ads with Mobile County Probate Court.
And once again I thought this would be a slam-dunk. Our lawmakers knew the issues with the P-R and had been contacted by many of their constituents who supported the bill, not to mention the city, county and Mobile Bar Association. Maybe the leaders from the northern part of the state didn’t care about it, but by God, our local leaders would.
It became crystal clear many of them weren’t going to listen to us either. I think we actually met more resistance with these particular local legislators. Even though, once again, the entities this would affect the most wanted it, asked for it and even adopted resolutions to support it!!
But some of our own local politicos — save a few who did at least hear us out — didn’t like the way we covered their political allies or friends, like Sam Jones or Kim Hastie and others wanted to protect their buddies who owned newspapers who are making a lot of money off the protection the law affords, like the Citronelle Call News. Who cares about the taxpayers saving money, as long as ol’ Willie Gray is raking it in, right?
In all of our trips to Montgomery we rarely got to have a discussion about the MERITS of the bill. Instead, if we weren’t totally avoided, we talked about all of the other aforementioned political BS, which has absolutely nothing to do with this bill, which, once again, would have saved the taxpayers money. Is this as unbelievable to you as it is to me?
We thought there would at least be a public hearing on the bill so we and other supporters could simply make our cases, but even that was killed by our local delegation’s chair, Rep. David Sessions of Grand Bay, in what we’ve been told was a very uncommon move. And my guess is it’s because they didn’t want to go on record saying why they were against it. Because “you pissed off my buddy” or “my other buddy is making a lot of money off of this” is not really an acceptable reason to oppose it.
They know it and we know it. And you know this goes on everywhere in the halls of the statehouse on issue after issue, year after year.
It’s just so disheartening to see firsthand how the sausage is made by these people in whom we place our public trust — or rather, how it’s just ground up and left to spoil for no good reason before it even has the chance to be put in the case. (That’s what you do to sausage, right?)
Someone please get me a table for Bitter, party of one. And don’t you dare send me a chipper, young server today. Get me some grizzled old thing to bring me some cheese to go along with this whine.