After last week’s Fort Wayne city council meeting, I had some questions. And who better to ask than the lucky S.O.B. who gets to watch EVERY Fort Wayne city council meeting: Journal Gazette reporter (and high school friend of mine) Dave Gong.
He talked to me about surprises, being fair, and his reaction to a salty-mouthed councilman.
Q: On a scale of “fun” to “extremely fun,” how would you describe the council meetings?
A: Extremely fun…they are the highlight of my week.
Q: Noted! No sarcasm! What are you watching and listening for at these meetings?
A: Pretty much everything. You listen for back-and-forth and pointed arguments and the whole deal. Part of politics is we love a good show. Especially the media–we love a good show.
Q: Are there some councilmen whom you can depend on to say something…”out there?”
A: Well, “out there,” yeah. There are councilmen who are very consistent. Sometimes they’ll surprise you, which is always great. I like to be surprised.
Q: How do they generally treat each other?
A: Actually, to be honest–pretty well. I read your thing about Baltimore—
Q: Yeah, that was wacky. Some of them visibly can’t stand each other.
A: They get that way. All city councilmen are like that when you’ve got ideologies–they clash. One guy will be insulting another one week and they’ll be best of friends the next. Fort Wayne, Indiana is one of the most functional cities I’ve ever worked in.
Q: Are they pretty friendly with you?
A: I think they know I can be fair with them. You’ll get reporters and outlets that specific councilmen don’t like. As far as I know, no one has ever told me that they absolutely hate me. Generally if you’re a journalist, someone somewhere hates you.
Q: Did I seem cool in high school?
A: Yeah…as cool as any of the rest of us were in high school. I don’t remember any of us going to a bunch of parties. There was a lot of laser tag.
A: Whatever my judge of “cool” is, it’s probably wrong….But from my standpoint, you were f*cking awesome.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve seen happen?
A: That’s a hard one. Ninety percent of them are super mundane. After the election in November, the council was even more Republican. This guy got up and he starts railing about how all the Democrats are socialists and the Republicans should show backbone. And [Councilman] Glynn Hines, through his hands, coughed “BULLSH*T” into his hot mic.
A: In other places–you go to Chicago–you see swearing on the floor. I saw lawmakers, state elected lawmakers hurling insults at each other. But in Fort Wayne, that was unconscionable. It spurred a blog post from me–because I like that sort of crap–caused public apologies, and it was…beautiful, actually.
Q: Do you ever gossip about the councilmen to other reporters?
A: Sometimes. Paul Ensley was wearing a bow tie the other day and kind of looked like Pee-wee Herman.
Q: I saw that! So creepy.
A: He’s a fun one. He beat a 12-year incumbent in the primary.
Q: Are you gonna go to the reunion?
A: I’ve been on that alumni website and–
Q: No one told me about that…
A: …I imagine somebody will call.
Follow Dave Gong on Twitter: @DGong89