#95: Renton, WA 3/27/17

Often, city council members are the stars of their meetings.

But sometimes, they get upstaged by more intriguing characters.

“Whereas women need to be inspired by female leaders…and women need to document and highlight their triumphs and accomplishments, I do hereby proclaim March 2017 to be Women’s History Month,” deputy city clerk Megan Gregor read the proclamation inside a council chamber whose male-to-female ratio was higher than the Space Needle.

A woman led her infant daughter to the podium. “I think your helper’s gonna get that,” observed Mayor Denis Law. The council smiled at the little girl–until Gregor handed her the paper and she promptly tossed it on the floor.

ren1
What a great moment for wome–annnnd now it’s dirty.

From here on out, the center of gravity shifted to the clerk’s desk, where Gregor plowed through a long string of numbers without breaking a sweat.

“The Finance Committee approves claims vouchers 354750 through 354751, 354754 through 354767, 354793 through 355173, 5325 through 5335, and 1006, and three wire transfers and two payroll runs,” she rattled off flawlessly.

However, the dismount was a struggle.

“With benefit withholding payments totaling four million and four hundred dollars, and–no, sorry. Let me go over that again.” She took a deep breath. “Four million, four hundred and sixty-nine…dollars, eight hundred and four….”

She wheeled around and stared bewildered at Councilmember Ed Prince. “Sorry, I’m reading it all wrong.”

“You did great,” Prince reassured her.

ren2.jpg
Even the clock has way too many digits!

But as any stage performer knows, it’s hard to get your groove back if you’re rattled.

“The downtown utility improvements project phase one in the amount of five thousand and seventeen…five hundred thousand, seventeen dollars–no,” Gregor shot a frustrated glance down the dais.

Suddenly, she threw a Hail Mary that even Russell Wilson could admire. “Five, one, seven, two, two, eight,” she laughed, simply reading off each number like a boss.

That slick move apparently infused some much-needed mojo. “An ordinance granting unto Puget Sound Energy, Inc. the franchise to construct, operate, set, erect, support, attach, connect, maintain, repair, replace, enlarge, and use facilities–” she bulldozed forward, “–for power, heat, and light in, upon, over, under, along, across, and through the area.”

BOOM! Talk about nailing one of the ugliest, most convoluted paragraphs ever to rear its head at a city council meeting! I was overjoyed, ecstatic, elated, enchanted, jubilant, joyful, and–uh, feeling…good…times.

But in the home stretch of this well-oiled machine, one council member accidentally chucked a wrench into the works.

“The item I have is a travel authorization and expense report for me to attend the Smart Cities Conference in Santa Ana,” Councilmember Carol Ann Witschi announced. “The total cost is $2,030. I need to submit this to the council tonight for approval.”

ren3.jpg
All I see is a floating head in a maroon chair.

Silence.

Mayor Law glanced around. “Okay, uh….”

“Our first one!” blurted Councilmember Randy Corman. “What’s the protocol here?”

Uh-oh. How ironic that the smallest dollar amount of the night caused the biggest snafu.

“Any recommendation from the city attorney?” the mayor glanced playfully down the dais. Other council members chuckled as the city attorney threw up his hands.

It was a lock. The council unanimously voted to send Councilmember Witschi to Santa Ana–all expenses paid.

Final thoughts: The MVP was clearly Renton’s resilient deputy clerk. I give her performance a final score of five hundred six and–no, wait. Fifty and…sorry. Five or–

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