Published: March 13, 2013
This Ticketmaster crap might be the last straw.
Local government is where the rubber meets the road. There’s little in between you and the people running the show; all it takes is the potholes not being filled or one good snowfall and someone at the local level could be out of a job at the very next election. So it’s somewhat surprising when people at this level pick the big, faceless companies over, well, you. And me.
I walked out of the Edward F. Borgerding District Courthouse still agog at what happened. After last summer’s fiasco where the city was forced to shut down all of its speed cameras, after the photos on my ticket from last June clearly showed my car behind a lamppost and obstructed by a sign painted with reflective paint while the dark SUV in the far lane sped cleanly by, unobstructed, I still was holding the receipt for the $35 I had to pay after the judge found me guilty. Because the gentleman from Xerox whose company operated the cameras “would not be taking any technical questions,” and if we had any, we were to have submitted this before the court hearing—despite nothing to this effect having been listed on the photo radar ticket or the summons. And if I wanted to appeal, well, they’d be happy to accept my $80 filing fee to submit it: more than twice the cost of the actual ticket itself.
So I paid 10 dollars plus $22.50 in court costs plus another $2.50 fee for paying with a debit card (the “vigorish,” as they used to say in the old Atlantic City gambling days) for a total of five dollars and one postage stamp less than if I had sent in a check. And the guy from Xerox gets to spend a morning in court essentially saying over and over, “Thanks for the money, folks.” And I wonder.
Then I read about the finance committee of the Baltimore City Council coming down 3-1 in favor of exempting the usurious sleazebags at Ticketmaster the right to charge whatever ridiculous charges they want in ticketing for events in town, to get around Baltimore’s scalping law, after the company lost a lawsuit by a city resident where it charged almost a full fifth of the cost of a ticket in fees for a show at the Lyric Opera House.
Remember these names: Councilmen Carl Stokes, William H. Cole IV and Ed Reisinger. These are the guys who stood up for big out-of-town companies like Ticketmaster and LiveNation to soak you for absurd fees and “handling charges.” These are the people, whether you want to see a game at the ballpark, or even walk up to the window at the 8x10, who stand behind that extra “vigorish” they slap on top, coming out of your pocket, because they’re “worried” that these vultures will stop handling events in Baltimore. Then, in nobody’s example of “Profiles in Courage,” the rest of the council with the exception of Bill Henry, James Kraft and Mary Pat Clarke, went along and passed the bill.
Let’s remember: We aren’t in 1979 any more. This is 2013, where, for the cost of a decent web developer (and with this economy, you can probably find a few at a decent rate), you can sell tickets yourself online. Hell, with companies like Square, you can do it yourself with your cellphone, and they charge less than 3 percent. But Carl, Bill, and Ed must be terrified that big bad Ticketmaster might pull the plug and skip bringing events to the 27th largest media market in the country. It’s nice to see that someone in City Hall cares so much for the starving executives at Live Nation/Ticketmaster (annual revenue: approximately $6 billion) that there needs to be a “temporary” measure allowing them to gouge us all until something can be worked out by, say, November.
And I wonder.
Me, I’m no knee-jerk politician hater (although I know plenty of people who are). But in the course of two weeks where I see judges and councilmen at the local level defer almost automatically to faceless corporate entities, even I start to think that this isn’t the politics that I remember, that this isn’t government as I remember it.
And you can go ahead and call me naive, but people like those local judges and councilmen should think about something: When you’ve lost me, you don’t have many people left on your side. And your elections come up mighty fast.
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