“If you’re not able to hear or see, there’s another area here you’re welcome to stand,” pointed Mayor Jeff Harrington as he wrangled the packed sea of onlookers.
“Since we have a full council chambers,” the mayor advised potential comment-givers, “keep them short to two or three minutes.”
He didn’t mention anything about keeping it civil. But amazingly, it seems he didn’t need to.
“First of all, thank you. I know you guys are all volunteers,” the first commenter showered praise on the leaders. “I am here to respectfully request another public forum discussing the 1918 Building.”
She continued, “I have an online petition with over 800 signatures. I have handwritten signatures of over 2,000,” a staggering 27 percent of the city’s population.
No wonder the room was overflowing–everyone was three degrees of separation from someone who signed a petition!
Right out of a Jimmy Stewart movie, residents quietly stood up one by one, strode to the microphone, and gave impassioned defenses of the 1918 Building. These included the logical:
The current city hall is in decline. The roof is leaking and documents are being stained and ruined. [The 1918 Building is] the strongest, most well-built building in our city. It has a community identity and represents our heritage.
They included the short-and-sweet:
I agree totally with what has been so gloriously stated!
And they included this heartfelt testimony from a woman who adored the haunted house inside:
“I walk into this building and these people have done nothing but treat me like family. They give me and my husband a place to belong,” she said as her voice shook slightly. “It’s not easy for people to admit that they don’t mesh well with our community. So standing here and saying that in front of a whole entire city’s worth of people is a blow to my ego.”
Council members leaned forward on their elbows. The mayor jotted down a note.
“Even though it’s unconventional and it’s scary–‘ooh, it’s a crazy idea and we scare the children.’ Well, yeah, that’s the purpose of it!” she insisted. “We see little children come through and they’re terrified and I don’t have any problem dropping my character and say, ‘hey, I’m a mommy, too. Touch my face, it’s real!'”
Per the rules, the crowd remained silent, but it was obvious where the popular opinion lay in the room. Mayor Harrington gripped his pen.
“I really want everyone to know how much I appreciate the level of comfort you have speaking to this city council,” he smiled.
But sadly, the council that had been so receptive and attentive would not last to the stroke of midnight.
“It pains me to announce the next item,” winced the mayor, “but item 10 is the consideration of council member resignation for Joe Peterson. So I would entertain a motion.”
There was silence as no one volunteered to make the motion. Once everyone realized what was happening, laughter broke out.
“You’re not getting out of here!” one person shouted to Peterson.
“I will make my motion!” Council Member Peterson hollered.
Council Member Dani Gurley whipped her head around. “Can you do that?!”
“He’s a city councilman, he can do whatever he wants!” observed Council Member Mike Thompson.
But who would take his place, inheriting the massive conundrum of the 1918 Building?
“The precedent has been set many years ago,” Mayor Harrington explained. “We’ve asked applicants to make an application and then we’ve taken those applicants to a board of past mayors to review. They made a suggestion to me. I bring that here.”
Ah, secret society stuff. I love it. Who did the Illuminati endorse this time?
“I’d like to appoint Chris Wood to the vacant Ward 4 position,” he said, gesturing to Wood in the audience. Everyone turned to look.
“I am very proud to be a member of the council,” she called out.
“And you know: new council members bring the cookies,” warned Council Member Thompson.
Strictly enforced, I’m sure.