Many municipal governments have the power to allow the drinking of intoxicating liquors outdoors. The government will pass what is called an "Open Container District" for a set amount of time to allow people to have their chosen alcoholic elixirs while walking the streets. The Historic District of Savannah Georgia has an open container district year round, and many fresh out of college people go to the city to take part in the marvelous act of drinking their booze under the stars. Drinking outside is pretty cool to a certain portion of the population, mainly the population that does not have kids.
For cities and towns that do not have year round open container district, the power to grant this special exemption is usually used for large celebrations run by the city. The Fourth of July is a very common time when a local government may declare parts of the city to be an open container district. We all like to have a nice beer, or finish off a great wine, while we watch the fireworks explode in their colorful glory. Outside of the Fourth, most cities are hesitant to allow an open container district on a regular basis.
Loveland is not like most cities.
In the last few months, the Loveland City Council, led by Mayor Kathy Bailey, has granted three open container districts. The Fourth of July event in downtown Loveland was the first outside drinking event. That is an obvious one, and the council voted 7-0 to allow the district.
A few weeks later, the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance started planning a weekend long event in mid September. The open container district was going to be on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Councilwoman Angela Settell and Councilman Tim Butler questioned the hours, and days, of the proposed district, but after some amendments the Chamber Alliance was granted their wish of an open container district in a 6-1 vote. Councilwoman Settell was the lone dissenting vote.
Just a few weeks later another open container district was on the agenda. This time a private company was requesting the city lift outdoor drinking restrictions for an event in late October. There was minor debate on why the city was now in the outdoor drinking business, but the ordinance passed with a 5-2 vote. Councilwoman Settell and Councilman Butler were the dissenting votes.
The most telling part of the debate surrounding the latest open container district was how the five yes votes said they trusted the event planner, and that is why they granted the district. The event planner is a known political supporter of Mayor Bailey and her (mostly) reliable votes of the five men on the Loveland City Council. Councilmen Butler, Ted Phelps, Kent Blair along with Vice Mayor Weisgerber and Mayor Bailey all made a point to say they believed the event planner would put on a great event. They wanted to reward their supporter.
Of course the council majority would believe a political supporter would do a good event. Even Councilman Butler said nice things about the event planner, but he at least realized it was not about the person, it was about the policy. Being a nice guy should not be the reason to grant the open container district. Only Councilwoman Settell and Councilman Butler seemed to grasp that concept, but the majority's political ally was granted his political favor. That is how cronyism works.
The upcoming September event also shows cronyism at work. The event is being planned by the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance, yet the city of Loveland has been advertising the event. It is not a city event. A different organization will be selling beer and wine, a similar situation was set up for the city run Fourth of July event, and this other group will make money, not the City of Loveland. When a municipal government grants favors to political allies, that is cronyism at work.
With the constant approval of open container districts in Loveland, how is the city council changing the brand of Loveland? Why are cronies the only people who have a voice in what others think of our community. Many people, myself included, moved to Loveland because we have a family. Open container districts every few weeks does not sound family friendly. Who wants to bring their kids downtown to Graeters or the Loveland Sweets on a weekend when outdoor drinking has been encouraged by the city government? Loveland was known as family friendly and filled with outdoor activity, now it is going down the path of being a town where you can drink in the streets. Will the elected city officials, and their political allies, hold your hair as you vomit into the city sewers. Is that the Loveland that the Mayor Bailey majority wants to present to visitors to our city? Sounds dreadful.
The lesson of this latest chapter in our city's long history is that if you are a political supporter of Mayor Bailey and her majority, then go ahead and ask for your open container district, or whatever you want the city to do. It looks like the big time swamp of Washington DC is here on the banks of the Little Miami River.
I am left with one question after this latest turn from our city government. What if a great event planner, who is not a political ally to the majority, came to the city with a great event. Would they get the same benefit of the doubt that the council majority cronies who planned the September and October events received? Would this non-connected person also get their open container district just a few weeks after the last?
I think not.
Let's have a toast on the streets of Loveland to cronyism.
RD Kulik is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. He has a lot of experience in event planning. Stay tuned to see if he gets his open container district approved. The event is being planned.
Hit RD up on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him firstname.lastname@example.org.