Six-dollar beer at City Stages? Nuts.
A bunch of the boys were whooping it up at the annual post-festival deconstruction, sponsored by Advil, trying to pin down the reasons why our town’s preeminent music weekend seemed to grate on so many people’s nerves this year.
(By the way, we adhere to the principle that only people who actually participated in the City Stages weekend should be allowed to critique City Stages. If we could apply such a rule to discussions of city politics, foreign policy and Alabama football, we could pretty much clear the airwaves of talk radio.)
Make no mistake, nerves were grated this year and, judging from commentary on area blogs, the fact that our City Council chose to invest an additional quarter-mill in the fest just barely beat out George McMillan’s administration of it as Irk Number One. The aggrieved seemed less disposed to bewail the concurrent restoration of funding to area nonprofits cut out of the yearly budget by that very same body, perhaps because those deliberations took place on Saturday afternoon while the aggrieved were busy online, typing their disdain for City Stages.
We have a lot of nonprofit organizations in our town eligible for taxpayer funding. For example, the Titusville Development Corporation is in line to receive $200,000 for its mission, which is to develop Titusville into... well, we’re not sure. Perhaps into a burg instead of just a ville.
Another beneficiary is the Birmingham Urban League, queuing up for $81,250. According to their crowded online calendar of events for the rest of 2009, they’ll be putting on one Young Professionals Mixer, four homebuyer education workshops and then somehow finding the cash to attend the National Urban League conference in Chicago.
It’s good to see that not all city nonprofits aim to be beholden to government handouts. There’s the National Gallery of the Greats, for one, and the Center for Urban Missions, both of which have applied for licenses to run bingo games, which surely could defray some expenses, especially if each qualifies to run the kind of operation that permits more than 500 electronic bingo machines to be spinning merrily along at one time.
The National Gallery of Greats (which apparently include B-12 and Free Space) should be a lock to get a license, seeing as how it belongs to former Congressman Earl Hilliard, who reportedly provided the wording of the bingo law to City Councilman Joel Montgomery, whose Public Safety Committee will review all the applications, in the first place. (Thanks to our inquisitive friends at The Birmingham News, which paper you should buy and read every day on actual newsprint, for doing the heavy digging on this.)
Odds are the Center for Urban Missions should make the cut as well, since the guy who applied for its permit is the brother of Johnathan Austin, a councilman who also serves on the Public Safety Committee. (Oh, wait. The Center’s seem to be receiving $24,667 in the new city budget, so I guess they’re back to beholden.)
As a matter of public safety, perhaps the committee will investigate why some of the organizations seeking permits don’t seem to know they’re doing so. That would include Birmingham Health Care, Inc. and the Alabama chapter of Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, representatives of which told The News they were puzzled to learn that they were about to get into the bingo business.
It’s a public safety matter because this sounds awfully like identity theft. I’d hate to think that nonprofit organizations might inadvertently make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year off gambling. (Though experts on the matter will tell you that “inadvertently” is the only way charities ever see really big money in electronic gaming.)
The way for the city of Birmingham to avoid costly litigation that will impede the establishment of lucrative legalized gambling is to invest in a few bucks. Also some braves and a couple of squaws. Since liberal guilt over the maltreatment of Native Americans throughout the nation’s history has resulted in legislation essentially swapping Indian birthrights for casinos, Birmingham needs to start thinking red to make some green.
For once, Mayor Langford’s questionable provenance might be a blessing. The same crew that tricked out President Obama’s birth certificate could craft a family tree for His Honor, proving that, through his Fairfield residency, he is not just Mayor Lankford, but Chief Larry of the Village Creek tribe.
A little more artful paper shuffling and the City Council could declare all of City Center tribal land. Sure, Valerie Abbott might have reservations, but they’d pale next to Larry’s.
Once you’ve got permission for a casino, the rest of the tawdry lifestyle that accompanies legalized gambling falls right into place. A domed stadium is easy to finance and construct if it’s billed as the largest indoor bingo parlor in America, and once that’s up, can cheap shrimp cocktails and Criss Angel be far behind?
Voices of reason, save your tonsils. If you thought Mayor Langford petulant, imagine Chief Larry on the warpath. From his specially constructed sweat lodge in City Hall, he will execute treaties with other great warriors, like Chief Mighty-Is-His-Hair McGregor and Chief He-Who-Picks-And-Grins Gilley.
Once that river of cash starts rolling in Birmingham, I’m sure some of it’ll trickle down to those deserving nonprofit organizations, too.
Like, say, City Stages.
With access to top-name entertainment not hamstrung by any Bonnaroo restrictions, Birmingham’s music festival will be in a niche all its own, featuring acts like Blue Man Group, Cher, David Copperfield (who will make the City Stages deficit disappear) and the astonishing spectacle known worldwide as Cirque du Yeehaw. No more scuffling for sponsorships when there’ll be video poker in the streets, keno on the corners and the dippin’ dots everybody craves are the ones that come up seven on the craps table.
Then maybe they’ll go back to charging reasonable prices for brewskis. Six-dollar beer at City Stages? Nuts.
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to email@example.com.