#151: Indianapolis, IN 2/19/18

The meeting of the City-County Council of Indianapolis-Marion County (a.k.a. the “Most Hyphenated Council” in the country) began in the most democratic of fashions: with applause for pretty much everybody.

“I’d like to introduce an Orange Township resident, active guy in the community, good friend,” Councilor Michael McQuillen announced, leading the claps for his man in the audience.

Taking a step up from “active guy,” Councilor Scott Kreider introduced two firefighters. Claps.

Not to be outdone, Councilor McQuillen grabbed the mic again. “We have a former city-county council member in the audience.” More claps.

“I want to acknowledge this month being Black History Month,” cut in Councilor LaKeisha Jackson, “and that we give a round of applause for Black History Month.” Raucous claps.

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I like this warm-up!

With no one being able to top Black History Month, the councilors settled in for the business portion of the meeting. But suddenly, Council President Stephen Clay dropped a bomb so large it could have leveled a less-emotionally prepared council chamber.

“In an effort to preserve this institution and advance the people’s agenda, Councilor [Vop] Osili and I have agreed to the orderly transfer of power,” Clay read emotionlessly from his prepared statement.

“My letter of resignation from the office of the president will be presented tonight. I will call upon Democrats and Republicans to support this transition,” he warned sternly, “thus averting any political filibustering.”

Picking up the gavel in preparation to slam it, Clay noted, “I give the gavel to the parliamentarian.” The chamber applauded one last time as Clay stood up, shook hands, and departed for greener pastures–or whatever you’d call the place where the rest of the councilors sit.

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I hardly knew you.

But even this orderly transfer was thrown into momentary disorder when Councilor Leroy Robinson raised his eyebrows and his hand. “Shouldn’t the vice president receive the gavel as opposed to the parliamentarian?” he quizzed.

A constitutional crisis was averted as the parliamentarian calmly agreed. Vice President Zach Adamson hustled over to the chair and opened the floor for presidential nominations.

“I nominate Councilor Vop Osili,” announced Councilor Maggie Lewis.

“Are there any other nominations?” asked the parliamentarian to silence. “The effect of closing nominations with only one candidate will have the effect of electing Councilor Osili as president.”

With no one disputing the outcome, it was official. The new president strode to his seat and with a reassuring smile, delivered a message best characterized as: “there’s a new sheriff in town.”

“Our council has shaken the confidence of our constituents.” He paused. “But that was yesterday. It is time for us to get back to business. And we will start with the next item on the agenda.”

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Crack. The. Whip.

With a calm, steady hand steering the ship, the rest of the meeting proceeded with only minor hiccups.

“Madam Clerk, can you set the, uh…?” Osili backtracked after forgetting to open the voting machine. “All right, let’s go!”

A few minutes later, “proposals numbers 56 and 57 were referred to the Metropolitan Economic Development Committee,” Osili read, glancing up from his notes to the chair of the committee.

She was nowhere in sight.

The council patiently waited while someone rushed to fetch Councilor Jackson. Within minutes, she reappeared, power walking back to her seat.

“I apologize Mr. President,” Jackson blurted.  While the old president might have chewed her out six ways from Sunday, President Osili remained serene. As he might say, some councilors shake the confidence of their constituents.

But that was yesterday.

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