A last-minute attempt to derail a city ordinance that would keep underage patrons out of bars failed last week, as City Council voted unanimously for the new crackdown.
This has been the most thoroughly discussed, carefully considered ordinance put before you, certainly in my memory, said Mayor Otis Johnson, an early and outspoken advocate for the new law, before the vote was taken.
City Manager Michael Brown said, While some might not agree with it, we look at it as a public safety issue. Servers and bartenders are hard-pressed to determine who is drinking and not drinking. Its not prudent to allow us to continue this underage drinking in bars.
Opponents of the ordinance showed up in force, however, spurred in large part to a flurry of publicity in the days prior to the vote.
Im partially responsible for the flyer thats been circulating, said Jarvon Lee to the council. But we never advocated underage drinking.
However, most critics -- perhaps counterproductively -- did use some variation of the they're-going-to-drink-anyway argument. For example, Roxy Hunter told the council, If you pass this youre asking for more trouble, with people cruising the streets in cars and increased drinking on campus.
Many critics pointed out the inconsistency of under-21 soldiers being asked to fight for their country but not being able to buy a drink.
Christina Fries of the SCAD College Democrats told the council, I dont want to be the one who has to tell a 20-year-old coming back from a tour of duty in Iraq, Im sorry you cant go into a club because theres alcohol. How about you go bowling?
But Mayor Johnson wasnt swayed, pointing out that debating the legal drinking age is neither central to the issue nor is it within City Councils power to change.
As Ive said many times, my personal preference is to have the drinking age at 18, said Johnson. But thats not the law.
Alderman Jeff Felser agreed, saying Two wrongs dont make a right.
One opponent of the new law, Rahsheim Wright of the Chatham County Young Democrats, said We think its unfair for you to punish the consumer and not crack down on some of these establishments that illegally serve underage drinkers, adding that the new law will encourage underage drinking in unsupervised areas.
To which Johnson replied, Youre a politician. The solution is to organize and go to the state of Georgia and get the legislature to change the law from 21. We put our hands up and swore to uphold the laws of the state of Georgia and the United States of America and thats what were going to do.
Alderman Van Johnson sounded a conciliatory note, saying Ultimately this is not fair to punish all for the actions of a few.
Some people are going to do the right thing and some wont do the right thing, he said. We going to have a contingent of young people between 18-20 and some will not have anything to do.
(When it came time to vote, however, Alderman Johnson voted in favor of the new ban.)
Saying We do need a safe place for young people to go, the mayor agreed with Alderman Johnson that local business entities such as the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Association should help come up with proactive alternatives for youth activities in the wake of the ban.
He challenged critics to come to the next scheduled town hall meeting in April and voice some of their own solutions.
The new law takes effect March 1 regardless.
GLOBETROTTER 'GATOR' RETURNS TO ALMA MATER
Im the greatest ball handler in the world -- and if you dont believe me, just ask me, said Larry Gator Rivers to an assembly of students in the Beach High School auditorium last week.
The world-famous Harlem Globetrotter and Beach High alumnus was in town to speak to students about Black History Month, their historic school and the need for an education.
And of course, to show some of the otherworldly ball-handling skills that made Rivers the Globetrotters featured dribbler from 1973-86. Hitting the stage to the Trotters anthem Sweet Georgia Brown, Rivers -- still trim and muscular at age 56 -- palmed, twirled, bounced and balanced a red, white and blue basketball in a variety of almost impossible-looking maneuvers.
He then regaled the crowd with stories from his days on the historic 1967 Beach hoops squad, which won the state title in the first year black athletes were allowed to compete against whites in Georgia.
Beach High School has a rich, rich history. Youre in a real melting pot, he told the students.
Interestingly, he credited his mother for some of his basketball skills.
When I was learning to dribble, she told me if I learned to dribble the ball with each finger by itself, it would be like having ten hands instead of two, he said, demonstrating as he spoke by dribbling the ball with each single finger of his right hand in turn.
Rivers said that thanks to his mother, he went back to school after dropping out, and was able to play basketball in college before becoming one of the Globetrotters and an international star.
Ive acted in movies and TV shows -- Gilligans Island, Love Boat, he remembered. But I made my acting debut on Scooby Doo.
In true Globetrotter tradition, Rivers -- who was inducted into the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 -- used basketball as a metaphor for achieving excellence as a person.
I love the point guard position because youre the coach out on the floor. You become great by making others great, he said.
And, he added, palming the basketball high over his head -- I love being in charge of the rock.
ABC CASTING CALL IS SATURDAY
A pilot crime drama directed by Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and produced by Steven Bochco (NYPD Blues) is holding an open casting call for extras this weekend.
Hollis & Rae, to be filmed in Savannah, will be about two thirty-something women who fight crime in a small Southern town.
The call is for men, women and children of all ages and will be held at the Trustees Theatre downtown from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 25.
You must bring a recent snapshot no larger than four by six inches. The photo is not returnable.