LAST WEEK, something amazing and wonderful happened.
All of your local elected officials joined forces, crossed party lines and put aside their differences to fearlessly advance a cause near and dear to their constituents’ hearts, regardless of political creed or background.
They joined hands with our elected officials at the state level in Atlanta to work closely with Gov. Nathan Deal to pass landmark legislation of lasting importance, that will have an immediate and positive economic impact on Savannah.
It worked. They did it. They got it done, and with lightning speed.
It was a watershed moment. A moment of hope. A moment of transcendence.
It was a glimpse of a better future, one in which Savannah joins together as a community to do the right thing.
What admirable, all-important goal were these venerable statesmen working toward?
What piece of brilliant, Founding Fathers-worthy legislation compelled them to put aside their differences and party affiliations in order to better serve their constituents and boost the local economy?
Was it an effort to finally make a dent in Savannah’s horrific poverty rate, about a quarter of all our adults and one-third of all our children?
Was it a long-overdue housecleaning of our apparently corruption-rife police department, restoring the citizens’ confidence that their law enforcement officers are indeed here to protect and to serve?
Was it a crusade against the open-air drug markets which continue to plague our neighborhoods from Eastside to Westside?
Was it an attempt to quash the deadly epidemic of gun violence which continues to routinely kill or maim young people here nearly every week?
Was it a move to dramatically expand the quality of education in Chatham County so that our school system is no longer ranked near the bottom of one of the bottom-ranking educational states in the union?
The new law was none of those things.
The new law allows Savannah bars to open on Sunday.
Bars can open on Sunday.
Don’t get me wrong! I fully supported the recently-enacted legislation, signed last week just in time for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, that would finally allow Savannah bars to open on Sunday.
I don’t look gift horses in the mouth, and I’m not going to start now. I sincerely congratulate the efforts of Sen. Lester Jackson, Rep. Ron Stephens, Mayor Edna Jackson, the rest of City Council, and everyone else involved in doing away with one of Georgia’s last remaining Blue Laws.
I’m sure Savannah’s bar owners — already feeling unfairly persecuted by any number of selectively-enforced city regulations — agree wholeheartedly that passing the new law was the right thing to do (even if it only lets them stay open ‘til midnight on Sunday).
But think about it:
Is that really what it took to finally get our local politicians to work together shoulder-to-shoulder for the common good?
Getting a cocktail in a bar on Sunday?
Meanwhile, as they were urgently passing that law, here’s legislation that Lester Jackson did not introduce: A bill to close the Coastal Transition Center on Stiles Avenue, basically a revolving door for street criminals within walking distance of downtown.
Again, don’t misunderstand me. Like any good Savannahian, I like to take a drink or two myself every now and then.
But what a wonderful world it would be if our politicians saw the same sense of urgency in fighting crime, fighting poverty, training our workforce, and improving government efficiency, as they did in making sure bars could open the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m not being too cynical about it. We should make lemonade out of lemons — or in this case, a Manhattan out of sweet tea.
From now on, let’s phrase all our local issues in terms that our governor, our state legislators, our aldermen, and our county commissioners can understand:
• If we reduce the murder rate, there will be more people left alive to go out drinking on Sundays.
• If we do a better job educating our children, they’ll in turn be able to get better jobs when they grow up and will be able to afford to drink every Sunday.
• If we take better care of taxpayer money, maybe we can reduce taxes on bars.
• If we fix the problems in the police department, people won’t worry as much about their house getting burglarized while they’re in a bar on Sunday.
• And finally: If we reduce Chatham County’s drug problem, that’ll make more room for more people to have good old-fashioned drinking problems. Am I right?!
Tongue in cheek, but, hey, it might work.
Who’ll join me to drink to that?