While the Marion city council undoubtedly gets points for its assortment of dais decorations–including flower pots, a wall portrait, and a giant construction-style sign–the real focus was off-camera.
“We have a great big group here tonight,” observed Mayor Anthony Rinella as his eyes darted across the audience, “and we have a spokesman for that group. Would you come forward and tell us what you guys are here for?”
A teenager wearing a baseball cap and camouflage sweatshirt popped up at the microphone. “We’re here for our civics class. We have a service learning project and coming to a meeting like this is one of the requirements.”
“Okay,” responded the mayor. “Who’s your teacher?”
“Coach Martin. How come he’s not here?”
“Good question,” the teenager answered uncomfortably. “I’ll have to ask.”
“Ask him tomorrow. I mean, does he not have to be part of the program?”
Pause. “I guess not.”
“Make him run laps,” insisted the mayor.
Two of the commissioners smiled and glanced at each other. Commissioner Angelo Hightower surveyed the room cautiously. Commissioner John Goss stared blankly at the desk.
“Okay. Our favorite council meeting of the year,” Mayor Rinella announced in monotone. “Guys, this is exciting. We’re gonna go over the city audit.”
A car alarm sounded outside the chamber. “Uh-oh, we gotta leave!” joked the mayor as the car’s owner quickly silenced the horn.
Although it was likely a joke that the audit meeting was the “favorite” of the year, it wasn’t at all a bad thing to hear that money was coming hand over fist into Marion.
“If you look back at 2005, the first year I got here, your total revenue was $15 million,” explained a city employee. “Look at this year. Thirty-three million dollars. That says a lot.”
“So since 2006, our total revenue has more than doubled?” the mayor quizzed incredulously.
Mayor Rinella nodded. “That sends you to bed feeling good about yourselves, guys,” he offered to the commissioners.
He then stared into the crowd at one of the city’s recreation employees. “Favorite part of the night,” he deadpanned by way of summoning the man to the lectern.
“If I may brag a bit on our Marion HUB Manta Rays. I’m sporting a shirt today–” the recreation employee opened his jacket to show off a bright yellow t-shirt emblazoned with a large ray. “They finished fourth out of 15 of the non-home teams.”
After the swim team had received sufficient on-camera promotion, the mayor wrapped up. “Last week we talked about some apps that the city introduced. One was a Facebook page and the other was the Nextdoor app. Well this past week, we had some incidences of vandalism on people’s Christmas ornaments.
“One of the people that was videoing this occurring had the Nextdoor app. So our Nextdoor app, in just one week’s time of people getting on this, is nothing more than the neighborhood watch going high tech.”
He added, “hats off to our IT department.”
He shuffled his papers and remembered that the group of students was still watching him. “You guys got any questions? Did you learn anything?”
A few in the audience mumbled replies.
“You’ve just come to one of our mild, boring meetings how we conduct city business,” Mayor Rinella said matter-of-factly. “I apologize for that.”
Well, at least he is making their teacher run laps. Perhaps that made it all worth it.