“I usually don’t use this platform to make a political statement. But I feel like I have to tonight.”
Councilmember Rick Vaccaro seemed to be winding up to drop a rhetorical bombshell. Who would be the subject of his grievance? The mayor? The other council members? The shadowy and pugnacious Fairfield Main Street Association?
“I see what’s been going on in our country and it’s been breaking my heart, just like everybody else. The zero tolerance. Seeing families split apart. Seeing kids in cages. I think it’s a horrible thing.”
Frowning partly at the situation and partly at his own admission, he added, “like I said, I usually don’t make this kind of a statement. It’s just been what I’ve seen.”
To be fair, no one “usually” makes the statement that putting children in cages is bad. And that’s because it “usually” goes without saying. But if you told me two years ago that caged children would be topics of conversation at city council meetings, I would have said, “in America?! Sounds about right.”
Councilmember Catherine Moy, booming through the speakers via telephone, had a more conventional pre-Independence Day announcement that did not touch in the slightest on human rights atrocities.
“We’re looking forward to a real good Fourth of July. And that means NO fireworks in Fairfield!” she bellowed. “We have a great parade, and then we can go to Suisun City to watch the LEGAL fireworks.”
Mayor Harry Price took it a step further by announcing a zero tolerance policy of his own. “If someone is using an illegal firework,” he glowered, “do not simply close the doors and windows and ignore it. Call the police.”
But suddenly, the meeting took an abrupt turn. Not because of what they said. But because of what they heard.
“THANK YOUUuuuuUUuu MISTER MAYORRrrrRRR,” Councilmember Moy echoed as if she was talking into a haunted house intercom. “UMMmmmM, I’Mmmmm–”
“Catherine, can you speak closer to the phone?” the mayor’s warped voice responded, reverberating through his own microphone. “And if you close the door, that could help.”
People on the dais exchanged glances as the distorted Councilmember Moy continued, growing fainter and fainter until her voice disappeared into the ceiling entirely.
“We’re having a terrible time hearing you,” Mayor Price announced. Everyone sat quietly as if this were Mission Control waiting to hear any sign of life from a recently-exploded shuttle.
“We cannot hear you.”
After a long pause there came one final sound from the walls.
“Hello?” Councilmember Moy asked faintly. The line went dead. Without warning, a thunderous warbling feedback noise burst from the speakers, causing the clerk to jump back and one of the city employees to wander to another room to fiddle with the dials.
Maybe this is a word of caution for the Fourth of July: if you hear loud booming and crackling, perhaps it’s not illegal fireworks. Instead, maybe it’s the faulty speakers in the council chamber and the haunted voice of the council member trapped inside.
But, as the mayor said, definitely call the police.