#102: Half Moon Bay, CA 5/2/17

I’ve seen city council meetings that were suspenseful, dramatic, or just plain mysterious.

But here in Half Moon Bay, they had a regular whodunit on their hands.

Nothing seemed amiss as council members watched a slide show about the library construction. It was a beautiful sunny day and the mayor was fresh off of handing a proclamation to a local women’s group.

But without warning, a photo flashed on screen of a gruesome crime scene.

“Uh, a little bit of an end note which I’m not happy about–nor should anybody be happy about,” a city employee grimly informed the next-of-kin, gesturing with a laser pointer to the explicit images. “A few months ago, we installed really nice gates at the Johnston House at the driveway. Over the weekend, somebody yanked those out and took them away.”

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I’m going to vomit.

Too grief-stricken to talk, the council sat silently.

“We will be replacing those and perhaps going to a heavier duty steel,” the staffer shrugged. He added curiously, “we are very surprised that someone didn’t hear or see it. So if anybody sees a couple of new gates popping up somewhere, please let us know.”

No witnesses? No leads? I’m getting too old for this sh*t.

How is Half Moon Bay not swarming with FBI agents looking at DNA samples, tire tracks, and bodily fluids? Why are groundskeepers and handymen not being hauled in for questioning? Can we at least get checkpoints for all pickup trucks in the Bay Area?!

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Whodunit? Was it…the kindly doctor? The affluent socialite? The reclusive innkeeper?

This didn’t add up either for Vice Mayor Deborah Penrose, the Sherlock Holmes of the council.

“How about putting a picture of the gates on our website?” she sharply inquired. “So if somebody runs across a gate they can say, ‘it’s that’ or ‘it’s not?'”

Aha! That’s just the kick in the pants this investigation needs. While we’re at it, put the picture on milk cartons. Send out an Amber Alert. Somebody check craigslist for–

“I wish I had a picture of the gates,” the man chuckled sheepishly. “We have the PLANS for them, but no one ever thought to take a PICTURE of the gates.”

He threw up his arms and let out a hearty laugh. “Who knew?!”

Oh, really? It’s awwwfuuuulllllyyyyy convenient that the city INSTALLED these gates but cannot identify them. Tell me, did the city have insurance on these gates? Are you going to collect a fat payout now that these gates are AWOL?

Also, who took those pictures AFTER the theft? Perpetrators often return to the scene of the crime.

This Gategate goes deep, folks.

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Just to be safe, I’ll need urine samples from all of you.

And as it turns out, the Johnston House gates weren’t the only Bay Area booty to be held hostage.

“I went to a SFO roundtable which deals with airport noise,” announced Council Member Harvey Rarback. “One of the interesting things there: they made a recommendation to the FAA about the height and elevation at which planes can take off.”

He leaned into the microphone and furrowed his brow. “But the FAA is unable to change its regulations because the Trump administration says you cannot add a new regulation without taking away two other regulations. So if you think federal action isn’t affecting you, think again.”

Final thoughts: You know who needs lots of gates? Airports.

#34: Riverton, WY 7/5/16

Wyoming may be the Wild West, but this week’s Riverton city council meeting was anything but rowdy. It was downright calm. Sedate.

Even–as you’ll see–sad.

There was a glimmer of drama at the top of the hour, as some dum-dum booked the city council meeting AND the Finance Committee meeting for the same time. Great, now everyone has to wait on some loooooong, booooooring committee. Grab a pillow!

“I would move for claims to be paid in the amount of $189,402.59,” Council Member Martin Cannan began.

“I’ll second it,” responded Council Member Holly Jibben–coincidentally the second and only other person on the Finance Committee. “All in favor say aye.”

Two ayes–one bass, one soprano. “Meeting adjourned,” Council Member Jibben leaned back as the meeting fizzled after 55 seconds.

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Hey, Riverton, do they make your committees in men’s sizes?

The camera zoomed out to reveal Mayor John “Lars” Baker with shirt sleeves rolled up. He tapped his pen impatiently as the first public commenter approached–a man with a bushy mustache and a shirt as red as the Wyoming sunset.

“My wife and I, we have a, uh,” the man started, suddenly bracing himself against the podium, his voice cracking. “Excuse me…two-year-old German Shepherd. My wife caught the dog eating a piece of tar paper in our backyard. There’s tar paper, fiber glass insulation, home insulation” from a nearby construction project.

“May 3, our dog had a seizure. Up to this date he’s had nine seizures.” The man clutched his mouth and fought back tears.

“They’ve got all kinds of stuff stacked–it gets shredded in the wind and blows right into our yard. I would hope something can be done. We had to put a dog down two years ago,” he broke down once more at the memory, “and I don’t wanna do it again.”

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Sometimes city council meetings are sad, boys and girls.

Mayor Baker uncomfortably attempted to play grief counselor. “Well, this has certainly been quite an ordeal for you,” he winced.

A staff member jumped in: “We do quite often talk to [construction crews] about a lot of that. But obviously we need to do it more,” she looked into the citizen’s tearful eyes sympathetically.

“We’ll keep plugging away,” the mayor mumbled, staring blankly at the man with the sick dog. “Okay? Thank you.”

His Honor didn’t exactly radiate empathy. But here’s the thing: Mayor Baker does not show any emotion. Calling him “low energy” vastly exaggerates the amount of energy he has. The man could put a case of Red Bull to sleep.

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Someone pump up the mayor–he’s deflating!

Look no further than his reaction to news that the airport just added a flight. “We need to encourage people to use the airport,” the city administrator cheerfully explained. “Many of us attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. I think we put five passengers on there and they all felt like celebrities!”

Terrific story, yes, your honor?

“We’re excited about this airplane and, uh…boy, I just hope that people will fly,” the mayor sighed, sounding neither excited nor hopeful. “If people respond to that and fly Riverton, we will be in the airline business again.” I cannot convey how truly funereal Riverton’s mayor sounded. Except to tell you–I’m not exaggerating–that he barely paused before adding:

“The other thing today…we had a funeral for Dianne Tippets.”

#28: Phoenix, AZ 6/15/16

Triumphant news from Phoenix city hall! Like the mythical bird rising from the ashes, a shimmering new council member rose to fill the vacant District 3 seat.

“Welcome to Councilwoman Stark,” Mayor Greg Stanton congratulated the beknighted Sun Valley servant. “You have some tough votes today. Welcome to the dais.”

She was further welcomed by a few fair Phoenicians gently begging the council’s favor.

“I wanted to show you the lights here are LEDs,” said a professorial-looking man who shined a laser pointer at the ceiling as attendees craned their necks. “But in the center here are the yellow white lights that I have in my house,” he circled the laser like a TED Talk presenter.

“We’re just asking the city to take a careful look at the options. Soft white is a good choice,” he smiled, pocketing the pointer.

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Phoenix: come for the council meeting, stay for the light show.

“It’s my birthday today and I wanna share something,” a woman in a pink blazer gushed excitedly. “Monday, we did meet downtown–and what do we do every Monday? We! Get! Out!” she pumped her arms while chanting the catchphrase.

“We meet at The Corner restaurant. There are a lot of discounts! There are free raffle tickets! We walk or run and there’s music!” She slyly grinned at the council. “Happy birthday to everybody!”

“Thank you very much,” the mayor picked up on the cue. “I hope I’m not in violation of open meeting law by wishing Ms. Barker a happy birthday.”

“You’re good, mayor!” the city attorney hollered.

Next on the agenda were several liquor license applications. The mayor held a voice vote, with everyone voting aye. Suddenly, a screech came over the speaker.

Mayor Stanton’s eyes darted, until he realized what was happening.

“Councilwoman Pastor, are you on the phone?”

“Yes,” the councilwoman’s voice crackled, sounding like she was in a school bus full of kindergartners caught in a tornado.

“Did you vote aye on that item?” he asked into the abyss.

“Yes!” the voice screeched.

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The mayor’s “I-hear-voices” face

Because it was her first day, it was time for the hazing of newbie Councilwoman Debra Stark. Council members had to set a special election to see if the good Phoenicians wanted her to stick around.

“Councilwoman Stark, are you going to declare a conflict of interest on this?” Hizzoner inquired.

“I think I should,” she chuckled nervously.

There was only one comment, from a devoted Starkhead. “I personally prefer the person siting there,” he gestured toward the councilwoman, before chiding the staffer with a hot trigger finger. “I’m not sure when you start your clock, but please let me get to the podium, so when I start speaking–you probably are doing that, but I thought I heard the beeper go off before I even got out of my chair.”

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This man wants his FULL two minutes, Timekeeper!

The final ordinance? New retail at the airport, with one fancy addition:

“If this passes, Councilman Valenzuela will get his spa at the airport,” Mayor Stanton ribbed his exfoliated colleague. (It passed, much to the delight of the councilman’s pores.)

“That was one of our quicker meetings,” the mayor bragged, glancing way down the dais. “Councilwoman Stark, you brought us good luck!”

Final thoughts: New light bulbs, new spa, and new councilwoman. Wow! Talk about a mythical rebirth! I give this meeting 8 out of 10 soft white bulbs.