Summer may be winding down, but the city council meetings are heating up! The biggest news out of August was International City Hall Selfie Day. You can check your social media for the thousands of images generated on the holiest of high holidays or you can peruse my Top 10 list instead. I also invited a top selfie expert on the podcast to pick an ultimate winner.
Of course, we saw our fair share of drama in city council meetings, including two mayors who raised their voices at council members and an entire council meeting that very quickly turned into a bonfire. If you missed that Jerry Springer plotline, go scan the August Month in Review.
And if you don’t know why this man is pointing at heaven…it’s because he’s pointing at heaven. But the reason will blow your heathen mind:
Any regular announcements at the top of Salem’s city council meeting were “eclipsed” (MAJOR PUN ALERT) by a single event.
“I want to say to the staff that you did a fantastic job with the eclipse,” Councilor Tom Andersen crossed his arms and beamed. “I pushed back a little bit several months ago–and I see the city manager is nodding his head!–about what should have been done. This may be the first time I ever say this, but he was right and I was wrong!”
There were guffaws from the gallery. That noise was quickly replaced by Councilor Sally Cook signaling for the mayor’s attention.
“I just wanted to ask everybody a quick question: do you know your blood type?”
Sporting a gigantic “I Made A Difference” sticker, she put in a gigantic plug for getting one’s blood drawn.
“I donated today. I had my first ‘Power Red’ donation. Very exciting. Very strange,” she mused. Noticing raised eyebrows, Councilor Cook added, “it means my blood is SO special, I get extra credit.”
Other councilors groaned, causing Cook to grin innocently. “It means they take your platelets and also the plasma. And that has a longer shelf life. I just encourage you to visit your friendly vampire.”
While this doesn’t give me extra motivation to donate blood, it does make me wonder about the shelf life of my own platelets.
But there was no time to dwell on my hypothetical blood. At this point, a deeply distressed public commenter stepped forward to talk about actual bloodshed.
“Car had to be going 60-70 mph down Fisher Road,” the man held up a graphic photo of a car crash’s aftermath.
“Five days later, this young lady,” he shakily displayed a picture of his wife, “was hit getting her mail out of the mailbox and killed right there.”
He lowered his gaze and continued in a gravelly voice. “Fisher Road just became a speedway. Something needs to be done. It’s just too bad my wife lost her life out there.”
Councilor Chris Hoy braced himself on the desk and looked the man in the eye. “I sat at your dining room table with you and your wife a few weeks before this horrible event. I have not forgotten that–and never will forget.”
It was an uneasy segue, but the council had no choice but to move on to what should have been a less emotional topic: amendments to the sign code.
Councilor Andersen leaned forward and frowned. “I’d like to make a substitute motion that we postpone deliberation on the sign code and have a work session.”
This touched off a nerve for Mayor Chuck Bennett, who lashed out without warning at the suggestion.
“I’ll tell ya: you knew you had two weeks. Not ONE PERSON followed up during the two weeks to talk with anyone about this,” he snapped at the stunned councilors. “I would hope you’ll ACTUALLY put your nose to the grindstone and do some work.”
Councilor Cara Kaser bristled at the mayor’s insinuation of laziness. “The two weeks were punctuated by a celestial event that will never happen again in our lifetime,” she protested. “We’re volunteer councilors. We work 40 or more hours a week.”
“Yeah, I also work 40-hour-plus weeks,” retorted the mayor icily. “I don’t mean to be nannyish, but maybe this time folks will step up and do the work.”
Against the mayor’s scolding, the council voted to give themselves more time for their homework.