Local Bill Dies Because of Where Politicians Park?

I have a theory regarding the state of politics on every level. From the tiniest hamlet all the way up to the most powerful position in the land, head football coach of the University of Alabama. Just beneath that position would be the office of President of the United States. My theory is this: When you start seeing elected officials park in the same parking spaces in which the rest of us commoners park, then you’ll start seeing a change in the way our municipalities, counties, wards, beats, commonwealths, states, and, ultimately, our country, are governed.

I’m not sure exactly what happens when someone is elected to public office, but many of them seem to suddenly see themselves as a part of the privileged class, whatever that is. Among the various other benefits they often garner as a result of their ascension into public “service,” they often begin to park their vehicles wherever they wish. They often do this in situations where there is a perfectly good, marked parking space that is just as close or, in some cases I’ve seen, closer and more convenient, than the one they created for themselves which is often not a parking space at all. It may just be a piece of asphalt right next to the building which houses their office or perhaps a grassy area where no one else would even consider parking a vehicle. I contend that this parking snob malady is symptomatic of the sometimes bloated image one might have of oneself after having successfully campaigned for a public office. This is only a theory and I happen to know several successful politicians who park not only in a normal parking space, but further away so that others may have their pick of the more plum spots. Other symptoms include an overwhelming sense of self-importance and an “I’m smarter than you and know more about what you need than you do” attitude. Which brings me to the point of this post…

I had a conversation yesterday on my Facebook page for this blog with Senator Bryan Taylor who represents District 30 in the Alabama Senate, the district in which I reside. The city I live in, Wetumpka, had a bill before the legislature that would’ve given the citizens of Wetumpka an opportunity to vote on whether or not to allow on-premises Sunday alcohol sales as well as draft beer sales. Of the six members of the Alabama legislature who represent Wetumpka (can you say Gerrymander?), Only Senator Taylor was able to find an issue with the bill and apparently only detected the issue in the eleventh hour as the legislative session was about to come to an end. Senator Taylor, in all his infinite wisdom, decided that this would be the proper time to amend the bill to exclude two types of businesses from the bill so that they couldn’t sell alcohol on Sunday. One business is the Creek Casino. I won’t get into my views on the casino and gambling. Suffice it to say that most readers of this blog would likely take issue with them. I’m not a fan of gambling. Senator Taylor, who is also a practicing attorney, happens to represent the Escambia County Commission which is attempting to collect taxes from the Wind Creek Casino in Atmore, Alabama (I actually agree with the commission on that issue). Wind Creek Casino happens to be owned by PCI Gaming, the same tribe that owns the casino in Wetumpka. The other amendment to the bill would’ve prevented any clubs which offer “adult entertainment,” i.e., strip clubs, from selling alcohol on Sunday. You are certainly welcome to draw your own conclusions regarding the amendment dealing with the casino. I would like to think that Senator Taylor wouldn’t kill this bill or any bill, particularly a local one, simply to shove his thumb in the eye of the subject of the litigation he is involved in in Escambia county. A proverbial shot across the bow of the PCI boat is certainly his prerogative but it shouldn’t come at the expense of Wetumpka city officials and residents who ought to be able to decide for themselves what is best for their community. The only thing I’ll say about the amendment regarding the strip clubs is that there is a city ordinance already in place, as it should be, which prohibits such establishments from doing business in Wetumpka. Not to mention the fact that you’d likely have less opposition if you tried to open a toxic waste dump adjacent to the elementary school than you would if you tried to open a strip club. Wetumpka has never been and likely will never be home to any sort of alleged “gentlemen’s club.”

The bottom line as I see it is this: Senator Taylor, based on some of his comments which you can read here, seems to have fallen victim to the parking snob syndrome. Some of his comments lead me to wonder if he doesn’t enjoy his position as Senator a little too much. He’s in a position, because of an antiquated state constitution, to insert himself square in the middle of any legislation the sort of which HB474 and HB475 were. Bills that would’ve affected only the city of Wetumpka. Senator Taylor blamed Senator Quinton Ross of Montgomery as well as our local city officials for the failure of the bill. In fact, he admonished Wetumpka city officials by saying, “Next time, perhaps local officials will do what all other local officials across my district do before introducing a bill — talk to their legislative delegation and work out differences BEFOREhand…” It is my understanding that the other five members who represent Wetumpka in the state legislature had no issues with the bill. Only Senator Taylor.

I don’t know where Senator Taylor parks his vehicle. Maybe he parks far away from the doors of the places he frequents so as to allow others to have the better spaces. What I do know is that it seems, at least in my opinion, that the senator rather enjoys his position of authority, whether real or imagined. I would suppose it to be a quite heady proposition to have local officials across an area be compelled by a billion-page, bloated state constitution to consult with you and gain your approval before they can move forward with something they feel would be beneficial to the city in which they were elected to serve. I suppose we’d all like to find ourselves in the catbird seat from time to time. I’ve found myself in whatever seat is the opposite of the catbird seat more often than not for most of my life. Heck, I might even find myself enjoying the power of that position should I ever find my way there. I like to think I’d try to be more of a servant than a member of some unofficial board of directors who gets to tell everyone what to do. I can promise you this…Should I ever find my way into some sort of public office, be it chief bottle-washer or president or anywhere in between, I’ll park my 2001 Tahoe with 140,000 miles on it in a regular parking spot. You have my word.

You can read David Goodwin’s excellent and informative article on this issue on The Wetumpka Herald’s website.

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