Council Vice President Charlie Luke braced himself for the onslaught.
“We have one public hearing for tonight. The rules of decorum are as follows,” he announced heavily, scanning the room for troublemakers. “We try to make this an inclusive location for people who want to speak. We ask from the audience that there be no cheering, booing, jeering or any other outburst.”
He caught the eye of Council Member Erin Mendenhall and the two exchanged knowing smiles. “That would make it unpleasant for people to speak and to listen,” he added.
Luke glanced down at his notes. “I do not…see…any cards. Um, is anybody here to speak about the zoning map amendments?”
No one stirred in the audience. All that buildup for nothing!
But wait: it was the appointed hour for council members to grill the mayor with questions. Gentlemen, let the jeering begin.
“Mayor Biskupski is on her way,” observed Vice President Luke. He paused before gazing around the dais. “Are there questions for the mayor?” No response.
“I don’t think so,” he murmured.
This council meeting was as quiet as a Mormon Tabernacle singer with laryngitis. However, that all changed as a squadron of public commenters lined up with axes to grind.
“I got a notice regarding my property–stating my xeriscape is not adequate,” a woman brandished a packet of papers while simultaneously introducing me to the term “xeriscape.”
“I’m required to have one-third of the property covered in vegetation. We live in a DESERT,” she protested. “I think my yard is one of the most aesthetically-pleasing in the neighborhood!”
She was promptly replaced by a man with multiple arm tattoos and a furrowed brow.
“As I head to work, there’s a nice lovely billboard that screams that if you support panhandling, you support alcoholism. Anyone panhandling is a violent, thieving drunk.” He reeled back with eyes wide. “Anyone agree with that?!”
“I’ve started a petition to have these billboards removed. I’d rather be doing something else, but until these billboards are removed, I will continue coming here.”
He locked elbows on the podium and seemed at a loss for the proper words to express his exasperation.
“I don’t know what to say…these are…this is…this does not make sense to me.”
But his frustration was positively mild compared to the final commenter: a man with a cigarette tucked behind his ear and a strong distaste for the entire council.
“Can I ask y’all a question before my time starts? I tried to get an answer from the cronies down there,” he gestured dismissively to city employees.
“You have police come usher the homeless away. Then you take their property. You turn around and stab ’em in the back. That’s hippocratic [sic],” he raged.
He proceeded to give council members the kind of roasting the mayor narrowly avoided earlier. “What about the terrorism going on at the homeless place? Some dude got a double lung puncture with a screwdriver. He bled out!”
“We do still, I guess, live in a democracy and not in the communist state like SOME of us would like to see. He shot a dirty look at Council Member Andrew Johnston.
“Why don’t you go to places like France, Germany, some Middle Eastern countries where they ARE progressive and you would fit right in!”
Well, I’m not sure the Middle East is “progressive,” but you can sure as heck xeriscape there.