In this biz, we often use our ink to complain anything under the sun that is remotely bothering us, but lately I’ve noticed a few things that have made me quite giddy and proud, so I decided to use my ink this issue to commend instead. (OK, there may be a little complaining still, but for the most part it is complimentary.)

Lovin’ LoDa
When I moved here in the mid ‘90s and started working and playing in downtown Mobile, some nights it would still look like an absolute ghost town, well until around 10 p.m., when the young folks would come down and at least make part of the street hop. I remember the older folks telling me as I would complain about it, “If you think this is dead, you should have seen it 10 years ago.”

But those days are long gone.

Last weekend as my husband and I headed down to meet friends for a birthday dinner, I was amazed how lively Dauphin was from one end to the other at 6 p.m. Restaurants were full, people were strolling up and down the street, young couples were having prom pictures taken in the squares. We met friends at the chic new bar The Sidecar (next to and operated by The Noble South). We talked about all of the people passing by and about the hottest new downtown restaurant, The Dumbwaiter, which was so packed we couldn’t get a reservation.

There was just a lot of energy. Our city’s heart was beating and downtown was most definitely alive and kicking.

And this didn’t happen by chance. A lot of people have been working really hard for a really long time to achieve this resurrection, like the Downtown Mobile Alliance and the City of Mobile’s Neighborhood and Community Services/Special Events office. And of course, the business owners who set up shop when it was a concrete wilderness deserve much of the credit for being pioneers, but so do the ones who have opened up more recently, who could have easily been lured to other parts of the city, with the promise of newer buildings and paved parking paradises.

I actually got a little chill to see it buzzing like it was.

Who wants to sing some Petula Clark with me?

“Things will be great when you’re downtown! Everything is waiting for you downtown!”

(Sorry, I know I can’t sing.)

Sounds of the South
Speaking of exciting things “waiting for you” downtown, kudos to Ted Flotte and his team for bringing the SouthSounds Music Festival back to LoDa this coming weekend. This festival, which focuses on regional up-and-coming acts, has the potential to become the next big thing. Set up similarly to Austin’s famed South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, most of the acts play in area bars/music venues. This is a really cool setup for both the concert-goer, who gets a more intimate music experience and the venue owner, who benefits from the food and beverage sales of those attending — way more than he/she would if a stage was set up down the street from their business with a tent selling draft beer for $8 right next to it.

And with SXSW getting insanely overcrowded and by some accounts miserable, this really could become a go-to festival for not only local music lovers, but also from all over the country, not to mention the musicians who will want to be part of a festival where they won’t get lost in the shuffle. I’m excited to see it continue to grow and evolve. Great job, y’all!

Standin’ their Ground
At press time, the Mobile City Council held over an ordinance requiring the Press-Register to place their “handbills” or bags of advertising they dub “Gulf Coast Life” on people’s doorsteps rather than just throwing them in their yards. The mayor and city council, along with local environmental group Mobile Baykeeper, have all said the bags are a big part of the city’s litter problem and they are also ending up in the city’s storm water drainage system. And too, it just infuriates people to have a private company throwing a bag of what they consider trash in their yards – a bag the homeowner is expected to dispose of or face fines.

You can call the P-R and “opt out” of the program, but many residents have complained they continue to throw it in their yards despite their request to stop. Or it stops for a little while but then magically starts reappearing again. The latter happened to our household. We requested for it to stop twice. It finally did for a couple of weeks, then we got another one. We called again. We have once again been Gulf Coast Life-free for one week. We’ll see how long it will last this time.

Alabama Media Group or Advance Central Services Alabama or al.com or “The Company” as they very creepily call themselves in threatening letters to the council has deep pockets and their lawyers have already said they will fight the city if they aren’t allowed to toss these ad bags as they see fit. In fact, the reason Councilman Joel Daves held it over for two weeks is because the city received letters from those lawyers last week, and he said they needed time to “fully digest” them.

In these letters, “The Company” maintains it is their constitutional right to throw ads in your yard, which certainly must make the founding fathers feel like they really accomplished something special.

The actions of “The Company” is what is so hard to digest though.

The city and an environmental group says, “Guys, you are littering our city and your products are ending up in our drainage system and waterways so much so we are going to pass an ordinance so you can’t.”

Instead of “The Company” saying, “Oh my gosh, that’s horrible. We didn’t realize this was such an issue. What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen? As a business in this community, we would never want to create a problem like this or doing anything to harm our city,” they have essentially just said, “Sorry, we’ll try to figure out which houses are vacant and we’ll try to stop throwing the bags at those, but if we miss some, oh well. Good luck cleaning up our mess. We will sue your pants off if you don’t let us continue to do this. Love you, mean it!”

In their letter, “The Company” even tells the council they better budget for “The Company’s” legal fees. So now, we not only have to use taxpayer money to clean up your mess out of our drainage system, we now will have to also pay your attorneys’ fees.

My god. The nerve of “The Company” is staggering!

Politicos always fear bad press, so I’m sure it’s not easy for them to say “game on” to one of the largest media “groups” in the state, hell the country, so kudos to the Mobile City Council for not caving on this.

“The Company” does not care about our city or environment at all, only their bottom line. They are bullies. Is this really the kind of “Company” we want to keep here?

Keep up the good fight, councilors!