Inside the vast Meridian council chamber, local holy man Pastor Larry offered an opening prayer that was part weather report–
“Dear Heavenly Father: we thank you for the snow, but for many of us you have given more than we need.”
–part community calendar–
“We look forward to the upcoming State of the City report.”
–and part international travel brochure.
“I asked a young Vietnamese lady why she moved to Meridian. She says, ‘I went online and saw it was one of the safest cities.'”
One of Meridian’s dedicated employees strode to the podium to brief council members on new fees for tidying up the parks. “Basically, we’re trying to recover the staffing cost to clean up before and after a party,” he explained. “There’s different prices based on the number of people likely to reserve that shelter.”
Council Member Luke Cavener raised an eyebrow in skepticism. “Can you share why it takes less time to clean up Centennial Park compared to Hillsdale Park? There’s a $10 difference.”
“Hillsdale Park, there’s a small splash pad there and a more significant playground,” explained the man. “As far as how much time it takes to clean one versus another, it depends on the party. Did they have a cake fight? It could be some people took advantage and they left a mess.”
A cake fight? Those Idaho Catholics are wilder than I thought!
But Council Member Cavener angrily shoved aside this sweet talk. “I personally struggle with the city playing favorites as to which shelters WE think are the most valuable.”
He eyeballed his notes. “It takes six staff hours to clean up Kleiner Park shelter A1?!”
Silence. After several uneasy moments, Mayor Tammy de Weerd offered a gentle correction.
“I guess we have to trust that personnel in the field have a grasp of the time commitments,” she said sternly. “I would also say–I’ve seen this personally–our staff is not just cleaning up. They’re running people out of shelters that want to be belligerent even though they didn’t reserve it. Our personnel play interference on a number of different issues.”
Cavener sat quietly. The mayor glanced out at the ghost town of seats.
“This is a public hearing. Is there anyone–gentleman–that would like to provide testimony?”
The one guy sitting with his child in the corner gave a polite smile and a wave, but said nothing. With Council Member Cavener voting “no,” the council passed the cleanup fees.
“Madam Mayor?” Cavener once more loaded up his artillery. “A number of weeks ago, we proposed the idea of a public forum for our citizens. I haven’t heard any progress made on that.”
Her Honor was startled. “I…don’t know. Was I there?” she asked incredulously. “If I don’t remember it, I can guarantee you, there was nothing that has happened.”
“I really like the idea,” Council Member Ty Palmer chimed in. “If nobody shows, so be it. If 25 people show, we’d like to hear ’em.”
“I’m kind of caught unawares,” the mayor murmured reluctantly, before offering her lukewarm endorsement. “We can bring back further information.”
Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to the people who have to clean up after the Meridian cake fights.