No sooner had the cameras turned on than Mayor Pro Tem Steve Baker made an aggressive opening bid.
“I’d like to suggest that we move the ‘communications’ before the closed session. So that as we move into closed session, we can just adjourn–” he gazed to the audience with hands outstretched “–without holding these folks here all night.”
Multiple council members simultaneously assented. “Seconded by several people all at the same time,” Mayor Phil O’Dwyer observed dryly.
Speaking of the audience, a substantial number of chairs were filled–and for good reason. Tonight, there was a LOT the good people of Berkley needed to get off their chests and on the record.
“I’m a physician. I come today not with my physician hat on,” a balding man with glasses but no hat whatsoever introduced himself, “but my president’s hat for the Berkley Rotary Club. Every year we have an annual pancake breakfast.”
He brandished a colorful poster. “I’m leaving some flyers. I did not bring any tickets to sell.”
However, I quickly realized what he was “selling” was indeed not pancakes, but rather the very existence of the Rotary itself.
“I’m concerned that our club may be going away,” the man frowned and looked from face to face. “We normally have about 25 members. Every year it’s been dwindling. People move. People retire. People die.”
A woman behind him stroked her chin. A man in a white moustache looked stricken. The speaker continued:
“We’re down to six members, which is a pretty sad state. In the past from Berkley, we’ve had city managers, we’ve had police chiefs, we’ve had librarians. We really have no members representing the city.”
He stood rigidly and delivered the heartbreaking news directly at the mayor. “If we don’t have a successful pancake breakfast, the six members are going to go away. So I’m pleading with the city that we can get some representation in our club.”
Whoa. Normally, people come in to ask city councils for money or services. In this case, he just needs somebody–anybody–to show up. This isn’t some obscure quilting club; it’s the Rotary. If it falls, who will look after the city? The Neighborhood Garden Coalition?
I don’t think so, mayor.
Whatever the fate of Rotary, his cry for help resonated with the next commenter–the man with the moustache–who was listening closely.
“Proud citizen of Berkley,” was his gruff identification. “We need more citizens to step up. Volunteer. Such as the Rotary Club. The Parade Committee. The Beautification Committee.”
He kept it to all of 30 seconds. “Step up and help. Thank you.”
As if some invisible composer had orchestrated the whole thing, the next woman was spearheading the aforementioned Holiday Parade Committee. And I’ll give you one guess at what the Committee needs:
“Like everybody else, we’re looking for volunteers to help us on our parade staff,” she announced. “We would like to extend an invitation to our mayor and city council when Santa Claus will be given the key to the city.”
“You are assuring us tonight,” interjected Mayor O’Dwyer in his authentic Irish brogue, “that Santa Claus will be there?”
“Absolutely,” she nodded solemnly. “We’ve gotten word from the North Pole that he will be coming down Twelve Mile and he’ll be greeting all the little children–and adults.”
Have him stop by the Rotary afterward!