Dateline: Reading City Hall.
A snowstorm was hours away from besieging the area. Inside the council chamber, city leaders were calm. But they were nervously watching the clock.
“I believe we have one speaker,” Council President Jeffrey Waltman scanned the crowd.
“Two,” the clerk corrected him.
“Chris, do you mind reading our public comment policy?” requested Waltman with a polite nod.
Surprisingly, the policy was more detailed–and considerably harsher–than I am used to.
“Citizens may not approach the council tables at any time. Any person making threats or becoming unruly may be barred from speaking or cited,” a staffer read solemnly. “Failure to abide by these regulations could result in removal and/or citation.”
Wow. I could only imagine the kind of person who would’ve made those rules necessary. Luckily, I didn’t have to imagine–she was already standing at the podium.
“Greetings from your favorite, no-good, dirty, evil landlord,” a short-haired woman in a poofy jacket boomed at the council. “That’s the stereotype, so I just roll with it.”
She bulldozed straight to the point. “My housing permits WERE paid. The city HAD my money. They didn’t give me credit for it. What you got was FAKE news. BOGUS facts.”
Brandishing a newspaper, she ranted, “you know, the great freedoms we enjoy in this country allow people to be pretty slovenly with them. And I am referring to this word right here.” She jabbed a pen at the offending headline. “What happened here is NOT an error. And I think everybody knows it.”
As she plopped back down, Council President Waltman glanced at Reading’s city auditor, who had a lighter, less bogus piece of news.
“I was able to attend the 12th Annual Battle of the Badges. It was Reading police and fire working as a team versus the Allentown police and fire.” Everyone inched to the edge of their seats in anticipation of the score.
“Reading’s team won by 7-6. Officer Pete Karpovich was the star of the game for Reading,” he announced with the enthusiasm of…well, an auditor.
Managing Director Glenn Steckman quickly cut in. “I think David failed to acknowledge the outstanding coaching of the game by the chief,” he said, prompting light applause for the fire chief sitting contentedly in the back.
“I was at the game,” Council President Waltman mused. “I was worried. If the police and the firemen are playing the police and the firemen, what do you do if a fight breaks out? Who do you call?”
Speaking of fights, something was irking one of the city’s employees sitting up front.
“I have to respond to [the public commenter’s] point where she complains about a ‘bad neighbor’ who has not kept up their property. The neighbor is the Centre Park Historic District.”
The District, he spat, “has tried repeatedly–REPEATEDLY–to reach some accommodation so they could put ladders to make the repairs. She has been extremely difficult to work with.”
Immediately, Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz deftly steered to less choppy waters. “I think the point about being a good neighbor is what’s gonna help us get through the next day and a half as far as the snow goes.”
She added, “I have a little bit of money–if people want to shovel, they can come to me. I will pay for individuals to help shovel out our seniors.”