Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gucci Mane, Kids, and Taxpayers

I have gotten all sorts of feedback about my email regarding the Gucci Mane rap concert. It's time to set the record straight on the issue. The real issues are (a) protecting our kids and (b) protecting the taxpayers.

This whole thing started when a citizen sent me an email with a link to a Gucci Mane youtube video that seemed very offensive to me persnally. I heard the n-word used a lot, but couldn’t really understand most of the lyrics. So I pulled the lyrics up online, and found that some of Gucci's lyrics promote the use of illegal drugs and the…how do I say it…unloving use of women. I challenge you to go online, and actually read some of the lyrics. They’re not as innocent as some people are claiming. The citizen pointed out that his tax dollars didn’t need to be subsidizing this stuff, and I agreed with him.

I would also agree that your tax dollars should not go toward subsidizing the KKK or some other hate group that wants to have a convention at the civic center. Unfortunately, it appears under federal law that ANYONE can use the civic center, if they pay to use it. We legally cannot reject anyone. Not Marilyn Manson. Not the KKK. The KKK can pay to rent it out, just as they can obtain a permit to parade down city streets. Federal law says they just have to abide by the civic center rules and regulations. I asked the city attorney to research exactly what those "rules and regulations" are, and can be. Right now it is still unclear.

One problem I am still having with this issue is that the way we book acts in our civic center means that hardworking taxpaying citizens could be subsidizing some shows that absolutely repulse the MAJORITY of the city. That’s not right.

I am hoping that we can adopt a policy that EVERYONE pays the retail, published rate for civic center use, unless the city commission or an advisory committee votes to provide some sort of subsidy. By subsidy, I mean that a producer will sometimes convince the civic center to reduce certain fees in exchange for a larger percentage of the concessions, or waive certain fees just to land the act. In this sense, the taxpayers wind up "subsidizing" the show. Would you want to foot part of the bill for a hate group convention through your taxes? Of course not.

Thus, I think we need to see if we can legally adopt a policy regarding subsidizing shows that will at least help people feel better that their tax dollars aren’t paying for things that most despise. We would not censoring. We would just not be financially promoting.

I also think we can learn something from the movie and music industries, as well as the public library. A 16 year old can’t get into an R rated movie without an adult, but he can go see a KKK rally or Gucci Mane at the civic center. I understand that a young kid cannot buy the hard core Gucci Mane CD without an adult, but the kid can go to the civic center and hear him live without an adult. The public library doesn’t carry KKK rally material or Gucci Mane CD’s, but kids can go to the civic center to get both. Something’s just wrong with that picture.

What can legally be done?

There are civic center trade associations. Perhaps we can lobby them to adopt a rating system like the movie and music industries have done. The acts that make their way around the country would come with a rating to warn parents about what their kids are going to see at the local civic center.

The local public library doesn’t spend your tax dollars lining the shelves with KKK books, Penthouse, Playboy, and Playgirl. Why should your civic center do something similar? Perhaps a civic center advisory group should decide what entertainment deserves taxpayer subsidy, and let the rest pay full retail rental. That seems to be compliant with federal law. Then, when Gucci Mane, Marilyn Manson, or the KKK book the joint, you can feel confident that there was no taxpayer subsidy, and they are paying full retail rates.

Let me clear up a few more things. This is not an anti-rap position. I believe rap is an art form just as much as blues, jazz, and rock and roll. My nine year old and I listened to some Christian rap on my ipod this weekend. My wife listens to a variety of artists that rap on occasion. Basically, I am forced to listen to whatever my wife likes, so yes, I listen to rap occasionally.

In my lifetime, I have also watched movies, listened to songs, and read books with content that would be "appalling" to my mother (although I remember her laughing hysterically through Richard Pryor's HBO special 30 years ago). The point is that that's my personal choice for me and me only. I can take comfort in knowing that while my kids are under my roof, it will be very difficult for them to watch, listen, or read "appalling" content, thanks in part to the various systems in place at the movie theatre, the music store, and the public library. I don't see why our civic center should offer any less protection for our kids.


Lon McNeil said...

I would like to go on the record here as say that the points Bob makes here are valid. When he first made his statements around the performance of Mr. Mane, he was called a "nutjob" by folks in the media, people that claim to be tolerant of others and opposing viewpoints. Yeah, right. Everyone was up in arms over his attempt to censor the performances at the Civic Center.

What was interesting, was that all of Mr. Mane's defenders held up the banner of free speech, but made it clear that they personally were not a fan of his. Interesting. So why aren't these people protesting the public library that prohibits offensive material, or the movie theaters that deny tickets to young people for R rated movies, as Bob points out? We do live in a regulated society, and I don't hear any of Mr. Mane's defenders saying those regulations should be scrapped in the name of free speech.

Being a Marketing Consultant here in Albany, I have to say that sadly, all this controversy will most likely do, is sell more tickets for Mr. Mane. By the law as it stands now, the show will go one.

You may dissagree with Langstaff, but just as you have the right to call him names in public, he has the right to raise this concern. It is a concern, and I applaud him for bringing to the table for all to banter about like we are doing. It's called democracy, folks.

Peter said...

Hey Bob .... first time I looked at your blog. Nice voice. Since you raise two "real" issues: protecting our kids and protecting taxpayers (as in protecting taxpayers' money, I presume), I have to agree with you in concept.

Maybe you would agree that in the big picture, the Gucci Mane concert is about as important as a gnat in this market, yet a whole bunch of gnats can make life miserable.

Raising the importance of kids is near and dear to me. That implies safety, education, family opportunity and other factors in a community. A single concert, especially one that, if ticket sales are there, would go on in this case no matter the objections you raised. You know the legal issues as well as anyone.

So once this concert distraction settles down, may I ask that you and your commissioners continue to move purposefully to help create a true family-friendly environment in every aspect possible, including the comprehensive development of the downtown.

If indeed you truly cherish these values, and I think you do, it will not stop with a concert or some rules regarding concert booking. You will become a voice in the commission championing this focus for the redevelopment of downtown Albany to create a "place" with a family-friendly identity and attractions for the city and the the whole region. Same for the Civic Center, without "censorship." Change the IDENTITY to family.

And, as far as protecting the citizens' money, this is perhaps the only direction that will have legs for the downtown and the city as a whole. If successful, it will beget new businesses and traffic to our community.

Best... Peter Studl

Peter said...

Bob --- meaningful economic development needs a voice in the city commission. Will it be you?

We need a meaningful summit for downtown economic development among property owners, a rep from the commission, the public attractions, the Hilton, the lender community, Chamber, CVB, EDC, downtown biz rep .... to collect input for the preparation of a useful economic development plan.

We could use a core working group and leave the meeting open to the public and permit constructive public input. I will be happy to chair the meeting.

I had coffee with a mutual friend this morning who is very marketing and finance savvy and who knows and cares about this community. He has been and intends to be a long-timer.

We had a brisk exchange of ideas. I dare say we could have put together a viable skeleton strategic economic development plan before lunchtime.

The plan is not that tough.

How about it? Let's get the folks to the table and make this market work.

Viable economic development need a superhero in the commission, Spiderman.

Best... Peter Studl

Peter said...

BTW... here is a link to my comment on the subject on From Tom's post this morning, I am hopeful that we will all move to the issues and we will likely see that the various voices might be closer than we think.

Here's the link, if it works that way on your blog:

P.S. I'm selling hard on this :-)

Lon McNeil said...

Whatever it is that wakes us up, opens our eyes, spurs our thinking, and brings us together, in spite of all the differences and issues that have kept us apart in the past, is a blessing from our God.

Thank you, Gucci Mane.