Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Common Sense

Common sense suggests that pounding back five or six car bombs, a dozen pints and a few shots of Irish whiskey in a sitting isn’t the best idea after the witching hour. Common sense suggests getting plastered and pounding on someone’s face isn’t a good idea at any hour. Common sense suggest running someone down with your car at 4 a.m. isn’t even an idea one should entertain at all.

But common sense is not something that comes easy on Caroline Street. Not at noon on a Monday, not at midnight on a Saturday and certainly not at closing time, just a few hours before dawn. There are errors of judgment at all these hours of the day, and some of them have dreadful consequences: Just ask the family of Eddie Loomis.

Life on Caroline Street would be much simpler and safer if every drink served there was chased with a shot of common sense. There wouldn’t be bar-emptying brawls over a spilled slosh of beer. There wouldn’t be drivers climbing behind the wheel with the blood coursing through their veins registering at 1 proof. There wouldn’t be the needless tragedies that sporadically and spontaneously erupt amid the bar district, sometimes claiming the life or lives of the innocent.

True, a shot of common sense would do everyone a bit of good on those late-night sojourns downtown. Yet as we all know, there is no magical shot to give tipplers a lucid look at the big picture before they make their fateful choices. And there’s positively no legislation that will illicit this common sense, contrary to what an out-of-touch jack ass on the City Council might suggest.

Accounts Commissioner John Franck seems to think closing the bars down two hours earlier would somehow sprinkle the city bars with a magical fairy dust that would settle the unrest prompted by the late-night consumption of booze. In his myopic view, all the troublemakers are perched bar side and pounding drinks after 2 a.m., ready to start mayhem and wanton destruction throughout the city. More specifically, Franck seems to think these rabble-rousing drunks only imbibe between the day after Labor Day and the day before Memorial Day.

To put it kindly, Franck’s plan to close down bars two hours earlier in the “off-season” is an asinine proposal pitched by someone who probably couldn’t find Caroline Street without a road map. It smacks of someone who is dreadfully out of touch with the way the city operates after hours and feels the need to cater to tourists, not the people who power the very heart of downtown.

Of course, those who read this blog with any frequency realize there are few kind words here, so why put it nicely? Franck’s legislation isn’t worth the ink used to print the first letter of it. Hell, it’s not even worth the energy used to make a pixel illuminate on a computer or LCD screen. Just as an example of how incredibly stupid his legislation is, Franck himself points to the post-St. Patrick’s Day incident downtown that lead to the death of a city man this year as a motivating force behind the law. Of course it should be noted that Travis Carroll, the man now convicted of running down Ryan Rossley with his car, did so when he was allegedly sober as a church mouse.

Let’s play some revisionist history here for the accounts commissioner. Let’s say the bars closed at 2 a.m. Rossley and his mates decide to keep drinking at a city apartment downtown. Several hours later, they walk out onto the street and encounter Carroll. And the end is all too familiar.

Why stop there? Let’s take a look at Michael Arpey, the fellow who decided to drink all day and night on a Wednesday, then get behind the wheel and crash into a popular 17-year-old Saratoga High football player on his way home. What if the bars had closed two hours earlier then? Well for that would have chased Arpey out a bit earlier, right?

Wrong-o, Johnny boy. Tragically, Arpey sped out of Saratoga Springs shortly before 10 p.m. In fact, it’s safe to say there would be more fellows like Arpey hitting the sauce earlier and harder if Franck’s legislation is ratified.

To add even more stupidity to a mind-numbingly stupid legislation, Franck also notes that the bars would be permitted to stay open later on “special nights” like New Year’s Eve. Who knows? Maybe St. Patrick’s Day would be one of those “special nights.” After all, it makes sense to keep the bars open later on the nights when amateur 'two-beer-queers' are prone to over-indulging, right?

Strangely enough, none of the press given to this proposed law has included comment from the people most directly impacted by closing time: The Saratoga Springs Police. Franck claims he’s talked to plenty of officers and they all insist the time after 2 a.m. is “the worst.” Still, none of these cops have made their thoughts know during the lengthy public dialogue over this ill-conceived law, which is indeed odd.

Franck’s nanny legislation is yet another attempt at the council legislating what does or does not happen on Caroline Street and should be taken seriously by any business owner that doesn’t think a part-time commissioner has any right to dictate how they run their affairs. The discussion now seems oddly similar to the one that occurred about a decade ago, when a hell-bent jackass commissioner named Benton drove a knife into the heart of the Caroline Street Block Party. And there are plenty of people who are still sore about that sordid decision.

The bottom line is that no government can legislate common sense, and the resident of Saratoga Springs should make sure Franck understands this clearly. Aside from banning booze altogether, accidents and tragedies will still occur via the booze consumption in downtown. The best bet is to implore bar owners and servers to police their own patrons so that a hothead freak isn’t willingly given a half-bottle of hard liquor to fuel a festering rage. Hopefully the council realizes this when they mull this legislation tonight in City Hall. Hopefully they also understand that boozers vote, even if they've been up all night drinking.

18 Comments:

Blogger Ben lives on said...

welcome Back My friend

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong! I live near Caroline Street and I would love to not have to deal with bar patrons throwing up, getting in fights, and slamming car doors before they roar off in their cars at 3 or 4 AM. As far as I'm concerned 2 AM is too late, but I'll take it if it means one less night being woken up by drunks or having to go out and chase boozy fights away. Those of us who live in the neighborhood know what it is really like at 4 in the morning and applaud this proposal. Plus, taxpayers are footing the bill for all the police overtime required by these late hours.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ho,well said I can understand and agree with that any closing hour,has Prudence found its' way here?

9:43 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

9:35,

I could understand your gripe if Caroline Street was dropped out of the sky one night after you bought/rented your domicile. But it's been the bar district since the 1970s, and unless you bought/rented your home before then, you really should have chosen a wiser place to reside.

On the overtime issue, I'm a firm proponent of lessening police overtime...but how exactly does closing bars earlier in the off-season lower overtime? Police overtime is a factor of not having the right number of officers for the job. It's not like the brass says 'Caroline Street is looking rowdy this morning...better call up the extras...'

They staff for the demand. And if they don't have enough officers for the job, then it's time to hire more.

Franck's main argument(or at least the one I've heard) is that closing earlier will save lives, and frankly(no pun intended), I think it's a load of horseshit. Ditto with the 'saving overtime' theory, since no one has explained WHY this would occur with any degree of sound reason.

If this legislation passes, I pledge to wage a crusade to oust any public official who supported it.

10:13 AM  
Blogger The TechValleyTimes Group: said...

I was getting ready to write my own spin on this matter, but after being referred here to your thoughtful take, it became a case of "don't bother: Horatio just did all the work for me!" Nice!

Although I don't share your apparent disdain for Mr Franck (a top-level public servant, in my book), I do agree with you that he is wrong on this particular matter.

If anything, compressing the local 'PM drinking hours' into a shorter and earlier window of time will likely result in more problems, not fewer. So goes my theory at least.

And there lies the rub: it's a theory. As the opposing view is Mr Franck's (and others') theory. None of us are supplying hard empirical research to back our positions -- instead we offer our anectodal stories and best guesses.

When an issue that involves a myriad of sideabar issues --- public saftety, freedom of choice, personal responsibility, economic livelihoods, local commerce, the role of government, quality of life --- I'm not sure that 'best guesses' should be the sole supporting argument for public policy.

Hey: I'm no fan of the way in which Saratoga has turned into the "honky tonk/whorehouse/tourist trap of the Capital Region" myself.

It's just that I find the band-aid solutions like this proposal to be both inadequate in addressing the city's larger problems and an offense to those of us who believe in the basic tenets of logic and reason.

RM


PS: where the hell you been?

Funny how you reappear after the Lillian's parking lot caves in. That might lead some to conclude that was your living quarters we saw in the paper that you got routed from....

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 23 year old daughter who is a frequent visitor on Caroline St. Of corse, she thinks closing the bars early would suck, although since she lives at home, we try to inforce a 2 am curfew. She says that if the bars closed earlier, she would just start her night earlier. So, instead of starting her night out at 11 pm, she would begin at nine, along with all the other 23 year olds she knows. Same amount of time spent out drinking, same amount of drinks, same exact scenario, only it would all happen at 2 am instead of 4 am.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Ho you think that citizens of Saratoga should not take action to keep their neighborhoods safe and pleasant places to live? We should move away so that drunks and bar owners can live it up like the Wild West? I've lived in Saratoga since the 1950s (how long have you been here?) and Carolina Street and general bar action has definitely gotten much worse in recent years.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, frankly, it doesn't make sense that the lives the proposed legislation would save or keep from harm are only important part of the year. If you believe in the law, you propose it for the whole year. If you don't believe in the law, let it go. Enough of this wishy washy crap.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Ben lives on said...

I do miss the Caroline Street Block Party. Always the Sunday after Derby day. Now we had a cute little bicycle race to entertain us. How disneyesque.

Dam nice to be writing on someone else blog for a change.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Harrison said...

One aspect of Saratoga life that was appealing to me as an outsider was the balanced sense of vice (gambling and drinking) and safety/decency of the people and the community. Refined abandon. Even though I won't be at bars at 2:30, I'm proud to live in a community where I could be, with a low risk of getting jacked. Losing that balance, either by allowing too much debauchery or too much prudence, will kill this town for well-heeled tourists who want to let their hair down.
By the way, welcome back!

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Disgusted Citizen said...

Speaking of getting their face pounded in, how dumb is this Nancy Muldoon broad? I would love to be there when she has a reunion with that young innocent girl she attacked on her lame blog.

4:20 AM  
Anonymous SaratogaJim said...

I think that the idea of self-policing has a great deal of merit. I know that it isn't easy for a bar to stop serving someone, especially a regular, but it's something that really needs to be done more often, at all hours of the day. I'm almost never out at 2 am, much less 4 am, but the last time I was around Caroline Street late I remember seeing a young woman practically being poured INTO a bar by her "friends", seeming to be out on her feet to the delight of all around her.

That's the kind of thing that is very easy to control. The bouncers at the doors need to check more than ID, because if you can barely stagger into a bar, what are the odds that your condition will improve during your visit?

People in favor of this proposal should also remember that many folks - like service people in restaurants - work until 12 or 1 and might like to go out for a drink after work themselves to unwind after being on their toes all evening.

I realize that the heart is probably in the right place with this proposal, but this smacks as a more of an emotional reaction to a tragedy instead of a more rational approach to the problem.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

RM,

Let me clarify a bit: I never have disliked John Franck. In fact, I've always credited him for being a savvy politician and a cool head during the two-year-long implosion by the Democrats. But this proposal is just ill-conceived in every sense of the term, and it's fomenting the same groups that helped kill the block party, something that was really the last pre-tourist respite for those locals who enjoy the downtown bar scene...or downtown sans tourists. Granted, he can't do a 180 on his down proposal. But if I were him, I'd let this one fall to the back-burner real quickly. He's got time now. In six months, he won't.

10:53,

My point exactly. I've enjoyed the Boston bar scene before, and let me tell you: Closing the joints at midnight does NOTHING to keep people from getting blind stinking smashed in the hour that precedes it. In my estimation, there's even MORE of a push...more shots. More power drinking. More of everything. Two hours is not going to save lives. But it will piss off bar owners and the handful of locals who like to hang out for cocktails after a long shift.

11:33,

I think you're entitled to protect your neighborhood, and if I thought this legislation would do anything in that regard, I wouldn't be so vehemently against it. But first of all, you're going to have FOUR MONTHS of bars being open until 4 a.m. And also New Year's Day. And possibly other occasions...Say St. Patrick's Day and Cinco De Mayo..and Halloween. Maybe the day before Thanksgiving...you get my gist? This is a feel-good nanny law that will do NOTHING to help your situation out, if you're a neighbor on Caroline Street that is sick of the drunks. Hell, you're going to have the SAME drunk people, only they'll be parading by at 2 a.m.

Ben,

Funny, I was thinking the same thing this past couple of months...Sometimes is nice to read instead. Thanks for the shout-out, BTW.

Harrison/SaratogaJim,

Great comments guys. I agree 100 percent.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listen, fellas --- It's like this: iSaratoga is right on the money. Like it or not. Do we live in a socialist system or capitalist? Is there profit to be made or not? Listening to the comment from the weenie living on Caroline Street reminds me of the story of all those suck-ups complaining about the noise the jets made coming from 'the airport.' It was a big deal down state when I was in college (Queens, mind you). well, one fella sent a letter to the paper that put it right and square (how Masonic of me): "Idlewild field (airport) was there long before JFK Intl was there, long before your house was built." end of story. Friggin nuts. I'm getting me one of those snake flags from that flag guy out in Gansevoort. Ha-ha-ha to the rest of ya.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Huck Finn said...

Sorry, can't agree with this one.
Having seen Caroline Street at midnight, 1 am, 2 am, etc. I have to agree with those who say, "Enough!" Most of the individuals are under 30, with a BAC over .12 easily and with a decibel output of 80 dB or higher. What with Saratoga Springs's controls on architecture, there should be similar controls on noise. I'm all over free enterprise, capitalism, etc., and YES...I went to college and partied...but we at least respected the neighborhood.
Shut them down at 2 a.m. and let them get plowed in the privacy of their homes.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Franck is responsibly responding to a public issue. It costs money to keep these bars open till 4-5. It tags his department through Risk Management.

Anyone in the business, knows the business of cash bar sales $$$$. If the downtown bars want to stay open all night, fine - SPECIAL ASSESSMENT. Let them pay for required service.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come back.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did they cut back on the number of cops working the bars.? Is it the budget or are they trying to let things get bad and give more reasons for an early closing time?

7:11 AM  

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