It took astonishingly little time for the Council Bluffs council meeting to go from zero to 11.
“I need to know what kind of right-of-way you guys are going to take,” the owner of a tire store fretted.
“Jack, I believe it would be just enough to do the sidewalks on the corner,” Mayor Matt Walsh informed him in a low, gravelly tone.
This upset the tire man even more. “They wanna come 25-foot into my parking lot to put the signs, street lights…I cannot afford to lose that kind of parking!”
“I don’t believe we’re talking about 25 feet into your parking lot–” the mayor tried to reassure him.
“I just cannot afford to lose any more parking,” repeated the man.
The mayor nodded, unmoved. “Perfectly understandable.”
“I’m not trying to be the bad guy. But I cannot afford to lose any more parking.”
Mayor Walsh hunched over and calculated how to end the interaction. “I can’t answer you with any specificity tonight. I can get your phone number out of the phone book.”
The man thanked him, adding, “I cannot afford to lose any more parking.”
Councilmember Nate Watson flattened out his notes and mused about the dilemma. “I think there are a lot of competing interests, though I’d remind all of us that any further alterations to the master plan may test the patience of the funder of such improvements.”
The Funder? Who is this mysterious and impatient funder-who-must-not-be-named? And if he gets angry, how many virgins must the city sacrifice to appease him?
“It’s primarily geared to making sure there’s enough space on the corner so we can meet the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Watson explained.
Abruptly, the tire store owner moved toward the front and began arguing back from the gallery.
The mayor remained placid. “It’s NOT authorizing them to take your property,” he said firmly. The man continued to protest.
Councilmember Watson nodded sympathetically. However, his sympathy was seemingly at its breaking point. “Your opinion matters a great deal, but it’s not the only one,” he replied gently.
The council moved on to talking about a parking garage. But Councilmember Al Ringgenberg ringgen-berated the whole concept.
“I question whether this is in the best interest of the city,” he frowned. “Not long ago we were provided documents and included is $2 million for [a] parking ramp down payment.”
He appeared deeply frustrated. “What I have a problem with is using general obligation funds that should be used to repair crumbling streets and sewers.”
Mayor Walsh grew visibly irritated, raising his voice. “So this is an ongoing diatribe of false statements–”
“Mr. Mayor, point of order!” Ringgenberg interjected in surprise.
“It’s my turn to talk, Mr. Ringgenberg,” the mayor thundered. “It’s my turn to talk!”
“First of all, the $2 million was NOT general obligation money. Second of all, we are the SECOND LOWEST city in Iowa with debt!”
Council members looked uneasily around the dais after the mayor concluded his angry rebuke.
Watson stared out to the audience. “There are a good number of young men here today for their communications merit badge.”
His face was expressionless as he added, “that’s what makes our country great. Stay involved.”
Final thoughts: I can’t imagine what kind of communications lessons were learned here, but 10 out of 10 stars to The Funder, if He’s watching. (He always is.)