#156: Denison, TX 4/2/18

It was only appropriate that a Texas-sized stemwinder of a prayer kicked off the Denison council meeting.

“Every beginning has its ending and every ending has a new beginning. Help our leaders to know what to cling to, what to preserve, and what to let go of,” a woman in an Easter-Bunny-pink shirt requested from the heavens.

“Empower each one of them to use their unique gifts to create a beautiful life in our community. As they are guided by your holy spirit, our entire community will flourish.”

It was more important than usual that the prayer today be thorough, for the council was facing an issue that might usher in copious amounts of sin:

Whether to give a nightclub an alcohol and live music permit.

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Pray for cheap drinks

“One of the situations in the request is also the operating hours,” a staff member explained. “Proposed operating hours for this are Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.”

He quickly added, “this is inside the entertainment district. A nightclub use, live music, is appropriate.”

When I think “small-town Texas entertainment district,” I imagine rodeos and gun stores, not live music and dancing. Talk about pushing boundaries!

“We are the owners of the nightclub,” a couple announced at the lectern. “Here for any questions you may have.”

“Is this your first time to operate a nightclub?” Mayor Jared Johnson quizzed them.

“Yes. I’ve worked in nightclubs before off and on throughout the years,” replied the man confidently.

Councilmember J.C. Doty was surprised at how late the nightclub would keep the music cranking. “You’re requesting to be open till 2 a.m. I know some of the other places around close at midnight,” he observed. “Was there a specific reason why you wanted to stay open till 2 a.m.?”

“We’re only gonna be open three nights a week,” countered the owner, much to the chagrin of the Tuesday-night club aficionados. “I believe that’d be very important for our profit margin to have a couple extra hours per night.”

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Who closes at midnight??

“So being in the entertainment district,” the mayor mused aloud, “should there be an event on a Saturday afternoon that they could benefit from being open during that time, what would be the process for allowing them to do that?”

Mayor Pro Tem Kris Spiegel abruptly leaned forward to defend the tiny business from the heavy hand of big government.

“I guess I don’t understand why we’re limiting it to 8 [p.m.] to 2 [a.m.] Whether they open at 5 p.m. or 4 p.m., I don’t know why we care.”

The staff member seemed to back up the libertarian point of view, replying, “I’d have to request the ordinance. I’m not sure that we have to restrict their hours. I believe we request them to give us operating hours.”

The mayor, sensing a compromise between the open-anytime wing of the council and the eight-to-two faction, said, “if it’s the council’s pleasure, what they’re suggesting is to put in a number not to exceed five or six times a year to have different opening hours.”

He glanced to his left. “Mr. Pro Tem, does that make sense?”

Spiegel nodded. “Understood.”

After a moment’s silence, he continued, “does that mean you want me to make a motion?”

“That’d be great,” the mayor deadpanned to laughter, before adding ominously, “don’t mess it up.”

And just as the prayer said: the council knew what to preserve and knew what to let go of.

#93: Batavia, IL 3/20/17

It was as if someone had asked, “which do you want first? Good news or bad news?”

The first half of the Batavia city council meeting was OVERFLOWING with civic pride. Here’s a sampling from the municipal smorgasbord:

  • Mayor Jeffery Schielke swore in a smiling new firefighter/paramedic, who ambitiously vowed to “support the Constitution of the United States.”
  • There was breaking news that the Downtown Egg Hop (sponsored, naturally, by Chick-fil-A) will feature a visit from the real live Easter Bunny.
  • Because so many scofflaws had to pay fines for failing Batavia’s tobacco sales compliance checks, the police decided to give $3,000 to the high school’s after-prom party. “The good news is, people have violated our liquor and tobacco ordinance,” the police chief said to laughter as he handed a normal-sized check to the organizers.
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Was the giant novelty check store closed?

Even the seemingly-snoozeworthy item of “Phase I wastewater treatment plant rehabilitation” got juiced by a mayoral shout-out.

“I had the opportunity to spend three hours here with the Batavia Environmental Commission. They had their movie night,” Mayor Schielke explained to his sizeable herd of 14 aldermen. “But before we got into the movie, they had me speak for a moment. So I get up and start talking about this, and everybody starts applauding!”

He waved his hand incredulously. “This room was full! There’s all these people from Yorkville and West Chicago and Aurora and everybody was here because they thought this was a real cool thing.”

Schielke sat back and marveled one last time at the memory. “I mean, I got a thundering round of applause when I talked about removing the phosphorus!”

Hey, now. If a mayor can’t get an ovation for phosphorus, that’s not the country I wanna live in!

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Watch out, phosphorus. There’s a new sheriff in town.

But alas, what goes up must come down. We had reached the halfway point–and the tone turned solemn.

“I received a notice from the school district. It’s come to our attention that ‘Touchdown Sports’ has been contacting local businesses to solicit sponsorships,” warned city administrator Laura Newman. “The company sometimes claims that specific coaches ask them to contact the business. By all accounts, this is just a scam.”

She emphasized each word. “Don’t share your credit card information.”

Fittingly, a financial scam at home quickly segued to the financial meltdown in Springfield.

“I think it’s crazy they have not been able to come up with a budget,” sighed Alderman Alan Wolff, clamping his fists together while reporting on the council’s field trip to the state capitol.

“House Leader [Barbara Flynn] Currie’s description was, we’re gonna get what we have now. Basically she thinks that’s their ‘gift’ to us.”

At this point, various other aldermen chimed in with their own recollections and grievances.

“We should be ‘grateful’ for their generosity,” one person spat disgustedly.

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“The only thing I’m ‘grateful’ for is this hand lotion.”

“It was all I could do to hold my tongue in that room,” Alderman Wolff flexed his fingers and eyeballed the floor.

Alderman Dan Chanzit stared grief-stricken at the mayor. “I never left a trip feeling so hopeless and in such despair.”

There were sympathetic grimaces around the table as Alderman Chanzit shook his head. “I hear chanting at town hall meetings of our congressmen, ‘you work for us.’ It took a lot for me to not start yelling that.”