When the lights went out in Burlington Monday evening, the timing couldn't have been better as far as the proprietors of Red Square are concerned. The city council was in the process of turning out the lights on the popular watering hole across Church Street from City Hall.
However, the infractions of order and decency cited by the new Joe McCarthy of the Progressive Temperance Administration were not what you might think. The club wasn't on the governmental hot seat for serving underage patrons, or even over-serving older ones. Nope, it wasn’t about bar fights, but rather, bar lights.
The Red Square Inquisition, led by Progressive Assistant City Attorney Gene Bergman, was based on fire code violations like a locked exit door, non-illuminat-ed "Exit" signs and having too many customers on the premises the evening of June 8. That's when the city-sponsored Discover Jazz Festival kicked off. Damn festivals!
With all the summer festivals instituted since the Progs took power 18 years ago, it's become pretty hard to even find an empty bar stool downtown during the massive annual tourist invasions. Nonetheless, our sources say the Red Square Inquisition is a done deal. The council’s mind is already made up, they say. The verdict will be “guilty” and the punishment will be a stiff 10-day suspension of the watering hole’s liquor license.
But all of a sudden Monday night, with Clean Gene laying out the city’s case in true Ken Starr-like fashion, the lights went out. And all of a sudden, everyone saw that City Hall’s Controls Auditorium isn’t up to code either — no emergency lighting and no illuminated “Exit” signs. Tsk, tsk, tsk! Do as I say, not as I do time?
Mayor Peter Clavelle and the enlightened city council felt perfectly comfortable operating in the dark. Despite the lack of light and the obvious safety concerns, the council kept going full-steam ahead in the unlit hall until the umps finally called the game after 40 minutes. Interesting.
City Hall sources say Red Square’s owners, Jack O’Brien and Mark Gauthier, have an attitude problem. They say the proprietors have been ignoring city request to fix their violations. The owners say the problems are fixed and the attitude problem is in City Hall.
Monday evening’s deus ex machine power failure postponed the Red Square Inquisition until July 12. But it also had another benefit — it prevented the council from passing the mayor’s pet resolution that will bring, he says, “free parking” to downtown Burlington.
"Free parking" sure sounds good, but look a little closer. All it will do is allow Mayor Clavelle to shout from the rooftop: "I brought you Filene's and now free parking! Think what I could do as governor!"
But Mayor Moonie's "free parking" comes with a hefty price tag. Look, folks, you don't have to be a professional cynic to know that in life, nothing's free. Not lunch, not love and not parking.
In order to give out-of-towners two hours of free parking in city garages, the stiffs who park at the meters had better stash a roll of quarters in the glove box. That's because meter rates will jump a whopping 50 percent in Clavelle's new age of free parking! Instead of two quarters to cover one hour at the meters of Burlap, you'll need three. Also, the price of parking tickets will jump. And beware: Better get back to the crumbling parking garage within 120 minutes because you're gonna get whacked $1.50 for the third hour.
Aren't you glad we're blessed with visionary leaders who come up with this crap? Free parking?
What's next, free beer?
Whoa! Wait a minute. There might be something there. Come downtown and the first two brewskies are on Mayor Moonie.
Nah. They'd have to open more bars to handle the crowds, and The Burlington Free Press editorial board would blow a gasket fighting that.
Sanders vs. Jeffords? — With his Washington press office pumping out three press releases a day' and the Rutland Herald functioning as the principal print organ of his reelection campaign, you might think Republican Jim Jeffords will pull it off — "it" being dissuading Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders from taking him on in the 2000 U.S. Senate race.
In the Sunday papers, two of the state’s top political columnists, Jack Hoffman of the Rutland Herald/Times Argus and Christopher Graff of the Associated Press both played the “seniority card,” which Jeezum Jim’s been playing for months. Isn’t Vermont better off with Jim, a committee chairman in the Senate and Bernie, a future sub-committee chairman, staying in the House?
“If you carry that argument to its logical conclusion,” said Ol’ Bernado, “then nobody new should ever run for office. People should never go up against an incumbent. All I would have had to do would be to tell all of my opponents since I was elected, ‘Hey, I have more seniority than you have. Why are you running? It hurts Vermont.’
“I don’t think that particular argument makes a lot of sense,” said Sanders. “There are a lot of reasons why people are good members of Congress or stronger members of Congress. Seniority is only one.”
Sunday evening Jeffords was on the WCAX-TV news wearing a WCAX-TV baseball hat while walking two miles of the Long Trail in support of Ngawang Choephel, an imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker with Middlebury College ties. Half of the Herald’s Monday front page was gobbled up with a photo of Jeezum Jim actually walking the trail. Wow! Given the published viewpoints of the paper's editorial board and chief political writer, and the "Jim Can Do No Wrong" slant in the news coverage of late, it may be high time the Rutland Herald Jeezum Jim's hometown paper, formally registered as a "Reelect Jim Jeffords Political Action Committee."
Media Notes — For over a week, Web-surfing news junkies have been chagrined to find WCAX-TV has not been posting its news scripts at wcax.com. Rather than a change in policy at Vermont's top TV news operation, the "censorship" was caused by a hacker from north of the border.
Peter Martin, general manager, informed Inside Track Monday their Web site "was hacked a week-and-a-half ago by a young man in Manitoba who seems to make a business of hacking sites and offering his services to recover and secure the site. We have declined his offer," said Martin, "and are in the final stages of rebuilding and, we hope, securing the site." The scripts were back Tuesday morning.
Geez, isn't the Computer Age fun?
Gay Marriage? — One of these Fridays, the Vermont Supreme Court will issue its opinion on same-sex marriage. This Friday would be entirely appropriate. It is, after all, Independence Day Weekend. But some court observers caution that two of Vermont's Supremes fancy moving up the career ladder to the federal court bench. Leading America into the brave new world of gay marriage would make James Morse and John Dooley targets for the wrath of Sen. Jesse Helms and the Immoral Minority.