The birds are chirping. The sky is blue. Oh springtime in Mobile, how I love thee! I would count the ways, but it would take too long.

But unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and azaleas in the Port City, as there have been a couple of random unrelated issues flying into my thoughts like pollen from a dioecious male oak tree. (Apparently dude trees produce the most of this yellow junk – according some random and questionably reliable site on the interweb – thanks guys!)

Restaurant remedies
Last issue, I wrote about how some of our local restaurants were under attack by a Birmingham law firm, which is representing a handful of local servers who are suing some of our favorite establishments for “invalid tip pooling” and not getting proper compensation for the pre-and-post-shift duties commonly known in the biz as “side work.” Not surprisingly, some local ambulance chasers are trying to get in on the action now too.

As I essentially said last week, I think this is complete BS. In my almost decade-long tenure in the service industry, the policies the targeted restaurants had in place — to tip kitchen staff — are quite commonplace. Most servers are happy to do so, as these people in the “back of the house “are helping them out tremendously, the amount tipped out to them is usually a very small percentage and these folks are usually still making far less than servers who — depending on the restaurant — make double to triple the minimum wage, if not more. The feedback I received was largely in agreement and came mostly from former or current servers — the very people who should be screaming these practices are unfair if they were so egregious.

But I did have a friend state he felt like there was potential for some unethical proprietors to use servers to properly compensate kitchen staff when it should be coming out of their pockets, not the servers’ tips.

I guess I can see that argument to some degree. But I have never really seen that happening myself.

But whatever the case, lawsuits are not the appropriate remedy here. I mean what business owner — restaurant or otherwise – knows all the intricacies of labor law? If a business is violating some clause of some code and someone feels they are being treated or compensated unfairly or illegally and the employer disagrees, the employee should first have to report the incident to their federal and/or state labor department. Then, an investigation should take place and if the employer is found to be in the wrong, then the business should be given time to comply or fined. Then if they don’t, then yes let the civil law suits begin. But it just seems like these cases are skipping a few steps here.

I’ve gotcha on a couple of minor technicalities, now I’m going to sue your pants off.

I bet you could probably go into any business of any type and if you were really trying hard enough, you could find some part of the code they were unknowingly violating. If this is the road we are going down, all business owners should be very afraid, including the very lawyers who are filing these suits.

Mr. Richardson goes to Washington … again
The Mobile City Council’s most prolific traveler, Fred Richardson, was racking up the frequent flyer miles again last week, as he and Councilman Levon Manzie were in DC for the National League of Cities conference. Richardson posted numerous pics to his Facebook page, posing with Sen. Jeff Sessions and outside of Sen. Richard Shelby’s office and even a really nice and very close-up shot of President Obama as he was speaking to the conference delegates.

Next to the photo outside of Sen. Shelby’s office, Richardson wrote he was going to ask him about ways to get the ditches filled in his district, something he has been making noise about his entire time on the council. That text seems to have now been removed, unless I was just hallucinating seeing it in the first place. But hallucinations or not, I wonder how many of those ditches could have been taken care of over the years with the good councilman’s travel budget alone?

Look, I know it is important for our elected officials to attend some of these conferences, including this one last week, which probably was essential. And yes, I know travel comes from a different budget than capital but it’s all about optics.

And, this really goes for all of them, but since Fred’s travel habits have made him the poster councilman for what is perceived as by and large a high flying waste of tax payer money, you have to be more aware of how your actions look to your constituents. Especially if you are going to be the guy who has complained for your 18 years in office that you can’t get ditches filled in Trinity Gardens, it’s not very politically savvy to ALWAYS be the first one willing to pack your suitcase.

In fact, if I were him I would declare I am not spending another penny on travel until every ditch, “beat by beat, street by street” in District One was filled. If he doesn’t he is offering up any potential competitors in the next election a very easy way to send him packing in a much different way.