Councilor Pat Davis: Kevin Bacon
Councilor Ike Benton: John Lithgow
Everybody Else in City Council/Albuquerque: Lori Singer (“that girl in ‘Footloose'”)
Lime-S Electric Scooter Representative Tim Harter: Satan/Dancing/Skateboarding
While your reviewer hasn’t actually seen the film “Footloose,” he is intimately familiar with growing up in small towns that basically outlawed dancing and held frequent religious revivals. Hence, watching last night’s production (Starts at 1 hour and 2 minutes) of the Albuquerque City Council featured many parallels with the gist of that fabled, if unseen and/or poorly rated Hollywood film.
The “high concept” for the evening was to take Kevin Bacon in “Footloose” and replace music/dancing with e-scooters/scootershare. In preparation for the evening’s production, Councilor Davis and Council Services put together an ordinance incorporating some of the newest, hippest NACTO language and recommendations. Armed with this and study of how cities like
Ogdenville and North Haverbrook Denver and Santa Monica “had bad experiences and then got it right” regarding implementation of e-scooter/scootershare regulation, the scene was properly set for moral and generational battle.
Portraying John Lithgow as the reverend was Councilor Ike Benton, who did not disappoint in raising perfectly acceptable concerns about suddenly having a bunch of e-scooters clogging up the city’s sidewalks and running willy-nilly through right of way, particularly as roadway right of way has, like premarital sex (which, as we know, is the immediate outcome of dancing), been held as precious and sacrosanct by all those involved for decades.
That such sacred space would be so easily unsanctified would have been implausible if last night’s production did not include the added character of “Lime-S Electric Scooter Representative” and the capitalist wrinkle that a company, or two, would actually consider throwing some money at poor, little City of Albuquerque. This cameo presented by Tim Harter, a younger man in a plaid shirt perfectly befitting someone commonly seen on a skateboard (more about those below) added both plausibility and a pleasant outsider perspective to what was generally a very provincial production.
Building to a denouement in which Councilor Davis’ ordinance passed and Councilor Benton’s competing resolution for a 90-day moratorium before allowing e-scootershare implementation failed, Councilor Benton stole the show with a lengthy speech and questions that honestly evoked memories of Fredric March’s work in “Inherit the Wind” and Marge Simpson (voiced by Julie Kavner) in the aforelinked “Monorail” episode of “The Simpsons.”
In other words, Benton’s views and questions seemed to reflect nothing more than outdated and/or unpopular concerns from an earlier time. Just as March’s Matthew Harrison Brady raised Biblical infallibility as the cornerstone of life in his version of America, Councilor Benton’s expressed view of roadways and sidewalks in which there are actual rules and regulation seemed antique and stodgy. Councilor Davis helped guide this reaction by pointing out that Albuquerque was actually going to have at least a bit of regulation, unlike several cities adopting e-scootershare earlier.
In the end, just as in “Footloose,” everybody danced in the aisles of the church (or at least that’s what this reviewer who admittedly hasn’t seen the film thinks happened), and we’re only a few days away from e-scootershare in little ‘ol Burque. Upon reflection and a look at the Facebook graphic below, your humble reviewer has the following observation about last night’s production:
E-scooters are like skateboards and Apple Computers. Not for everyone, and very much not for a majority of those in the older demographic, but a symbol of youthful freedom and iconoclasm with all the very real fun and lawlessness of riding a longboard if that longboard had a motor. Being against e-scooters is to be “the man.” Favoring delays in their use in Albuquerque is to be John Lithgow’s reverend. And nobody wants to be John Lithgow (at least in “Footloose”).
Instead, everybody, at least everybody under approximately 40 years of age, wants to be Elijah Wood riding a e-scooter while smoking a cigarette. At least until they are killed by a driver or slapped by a pedestrian.
In sum, last night’s production of “Footloose” by Albuquerque City Council did a good job of outlining the moral and demographic arguments underpinning our changing transportation world. Unlike modern small town America, which, for now, seems hellbent on ignoring demographics through its political death-grip on old, white guys, Albuquerque is facing the modern world head-on. At least until the first lawsuit against the City resulting from a head-on collision between a rider on a e-scooter and a driver. Like anything involving the young, there will be mistakes, and there will be old people to say “I told you so.”