#160: Corpus Christi, TX 6/12/18

The theme of this week’s Corpus Christi council meeting was simple. Straightforward. Short enough to fit on a baseball cap.

Make Corpus Christi Clean Again.

“All right, it’s party time!” Mayor Joe McComb murmured excitedly, cradling a handful of honorary proclamations. Most of them were “feel-goods,” celebrating Juneteenth and women veterans. But the mayor frowned after scanning the page marked “National Garbage Worker Week.”

“We oughta quit trashing our city,” he blurted out unprompted. “Put a bag in your car and put your trash in there and empty it when you go to the gas station.”

As the sanitation workers filed down to the front for a group photo, the mayor was rolling with the cadence of a Baptist preacher. “These people do a great job, but there’s a whole lot more of us than there are of them. So you can figure if we’re in a battle, we’re gonna win if we wanna be trashy. And we don’t need to be trashy.”

Don’t mess with Texas? More like, “don’t mess with Mayor Joe McComb.”

After the photo op, the applause, and the obligatory handshaking, Mayor McComb again grabbed the mic, worried that he hadn’t sufficiently put the fear of god in the viewing audience.

“I wasn’t being facetious when I was making my comments about the citizens need to not trash the place,” he yelled slightly above the din.

“Let me just ask you: when you go to a city and it’s nice and clean and looking good,” he began riffing as if he were the first person to put forth the proposition that garbage is bad, “you say, ‘man, that’s a pretty nice, clean city. I wouldn’t mind living or working here.’ We want that to be the reputation of Corpus Christi.”

Having littered the meeting with his anti-litter propaganda, the mayor opened public comment, with the disclaimer that “we’re here to listen. We can’t respond.”

The policy was unfortunate, because he almost certainly would have had something to say about the woman who sauntered up to the dais, dropped her purse on the lectern, and immediately produced from it a plastic bag.

“I would like to present to you something that belongs more to you than to us,” she announced indignantly, handing off the bag to the city manager.

“I hope you feel the same repulsiveness that we feel,” she glowered. “Those are roaches.”

So are those roaches up for adoption or…?

If council members felt any repulsion, they legally couldn’t show it. The commenter barreled ahead.

“You are forcing us to live with this nuisance! Why are you imposing roaches and rodents on the neighbors of Ocean Drive?” she cried out, her voice rising as she railed against the dozens of new palm trees and their creepy-crawly inhabitants.

“Why do you wanna have Corpus Christi full of roaches? You cannot sit outside at night because you have all those roaches coming onto you. Please help us!”

seem to remember someone else talking about having a good-looking city….

After everyone had spoken, Mayor McComb could no longer contain his irritation.

“There were just misstatement after misstatement after misstatement,” he grumbled. “There ought to be something in there that we’ve got a correction statement period after the public comments. It’s a privilege, not an obligation that we have public comment.”

Although this fresh outrage didn’t appear to be cockroach-specific, it was alarming that the mayor was mulling the nuclear option. (The nuclear option, ironically, being something those cockroaches would survive.) But he stopped, then reconsidered how a lesser, more Pavlovian solution may be needed.

“Or we’re gonna have to devise some method that says either a big bell’s gonna come down or somebody with a water gun’s gonna squirt ’em when they knowingly make misstatement of facts. So I’m gonna work on that.”

Ah, maybe go after the cockroaches first? Then work on the dais-mounted squirt gun.


#119: Hardeeville, SC 7/18/17

If you didn’t have a big old smile on your face from 6:00 to 6:10 p.m., you must not have been watching the Hardeeville city council meeting.

“Dear Lord, please continue to guide this council,” Mayor Pro Tem David Spisso began conventionally enough, adding: “Please inspire the Apple Company to bring an Apple Store to Hardeeville. Amen,” he concluded, earning an amused glance from Council Member John Carroll.

An elderly man in a baseball cap quietly introduced himself. “My wife was well-known around here. Nobody hardly knows me,” he admitted humbly. “But she died last month.”

“My sympathies, sir,” Mayor Harry Williams replied.

A Lego plane?

“She was always complaining to me to come here and see you people. I hate to do this, but the neighbor we have refuses to take his garbage off the street. He leaves it there seven days a week.”

“We’ll have code enforcement take a look,” the city manager assured him.

While another citizen might have declared “Mission Accomplished” and returned to their seat, this sprightly nonagenarian had one other news bulletin for the crowd.

“I’ll tell you something else!” he waved his finger. “[My wife] talked me into getting in the bake-off contest this year. I got first place on the cake AND the pie! Ninety-one-year-old beatin’ out all of them women!”

Council members applauded wildly as onlookers cackled with well-intentioned laughter. The man gestured to the cacophony he had created.

“I’m going home!” he hollered.

She’s loving it.

As it turned out, he made the right choice.

Mayor Williams gave a slight frown as the Parks and Recreation director slid behind the microphone to discuss the troubled Hardeeville Recreation Complex turf project.

The director gestured to the screen. “We have a video here of the progress. It’s a minute long.” An excruciatingly slow slide show cycled silently.

“I’m on my edge of the seat. Is this really necessary?” the mayor heckled impatiently.

At last, stationary photographs of the field flashed onscreen. The director described the current situation: “The plan is to get that [soil] dried out so they can put down a geofiber fabric over the soil that is unsuitable.”

Yikes! That’s some sullied soil right there.

The mayor stared down at his paperwork and clenched his fist. “So we ALREADY added $4,900 to the original plan. Now we have ANOTHER $49,000. So we’re $53,000 over budget.”

“We’re still under budget for the project,” the director protested.

“No, we’re not,” the mayor shot back in his thick New Jersey accent. “Let’s make that clear.”

Throwing up both hands, he vented savagely. “I have a real problem. We’re coming back at the eleventh hour asking for another $50,000–which is ten percent over budget and six months late. I don’t find that to be an acceptable performance!”

Barely hiding his contempt for the contractor doing the turf work, Mayor Williams ticked off his complaints. “Didn’t get permits on time. At least a week late and counting. If they’re here,” he glared across the room, “NOT a good performance.”

Putting on his glasses and sighing, the mayor initiated a vote to approve the extra money.

“This is something I wanted in the city for a long time. I want it to be right,” Mayor Pro Tem Spisso announced, voting in favor.

With all other council members as a yes, the mayor voted his disgust. “I supported this. As a protest to the performance of the company, I’m gonna vote no.”

On that dour note, the matter was closed.

#27: Minot, ND 6/6/16

Chronicling the Minot city council was like a chef finally tasting his pièce de résistance. I take full credit for this meeting, which would not be online if I hadn’t talked to one of Minot’s city council members. (Okay, fine, I take partial credit.)

Needless to say, I was amped! It’s the first videotaped council meeting in the history of Minot (rhymes with “Why not!”). Everyone’s gon’ get cray for the camera!

“Ugh,” the kindly old citizen at the podium sighed. “No one can tell me that downtown doesn’t deserve or need traffic lights,” he warily–almost sleepily–said about Minot’s de-stoplighting plan.

“Pedestrian count is way down? Hmm. They took it in February 5, 6, and 7. Do you know what the weather was like on February 5? 23.9 degrees below zero.” Another heavy sigh. “All I can say is, Lance, shame on you. You should be spanked.”

The Minot city council, in all its low-res glory.

In the no-camera days, Lance may very well have been spanked on the spot. Instead, the city manager had the opposite of a spanking to give: “I’d like to recognize two folks,” he announced, unfolding a fellow Minoter’s letter. “The alley behind my house had been damaged. I had nothing but a big muddy mess,” he read. But “there were two very nice men in the alley this morning. They were nice, pleasant, and hardworking. My alley is beautiful!”

He glanced up. “So what I’d like to do…if you guys would go up there, the president of city council is going to give you a city coin.”

The two heroic employees ascended to the dais amid rapturous applause to receive their lucre.

After the good vibes subsided, the city manager smirked across the room. “The coin rule is: next time you see [council] President Jantzer anyplace, if he doesn’t have HIS coin on him, he owes you an adult beverage of your choice.” The council guffawed.

He added: “I haven’t given him one, so I KNOW he doesn’t have one!” Everyone whooped, but the city manager had one more roast up his sleeve.

“Mr. President, I wanted to show you–because he’s not here–the mayor is going to be in the dunking booth this Friday. So for all of you that wants to partake in this…”

President Mark Jantzer demurred. “It’s very…unexpected news. But we appreciate it!” The other aldermen snickered, no doubt calculating the training regimen needed to sink Hizzoner.

Woohoo! That’s 56 more people who might show up to dunk the mayor!

Finally, the council called on a sprightly young staffer named Jason to present the flashy new recycling plan. “We’ve got less than 10 years of capacity,” at the Minot landfill, Jason apocalyptically warned. “What we’re proposing is curbside recycling, picked up and emptied by collection vehicles–with mechanical arms to lift the carts, empty the contents in the collection vehicle, and return them to the ground,” he said, describing that newfangled contraption called “a garbage truck.” For any aldermen still confused, he played a video of one doing its duty.

The council, apparently impressed with this 20th-century technology, voted in favor of the recycling plan.

Final thoughts: beautiful. My best work yet. To the city of Minot, may you continue to videotape your council meetings till the landfill runneth over.