State of the City Council Meetings Address 2018

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–This evening, City Council Chronicles Editor Michael Karlik gave the second annual State of the City Council Meetings address to a joint session of Congress. Reports are that nearly all senators stayed awake and a stunning nine of ten House members did not walk out. By any measure, it was a success. Below is a rush transcript and audio of the entire speech, which is also available on iTunesStitcher, and Player FM:

Mr. Speaker, mayors, council members, Mom: ever since this project began in April 2016, we have chronicled the city council meetings of over 200 cities on four continents in eight countries. And none of them were sh*tholes.

Now, some have questioned my ability to chronicle that many city councils. But I assure you, as someone who is 6’3″ and 239 pounds–239? Is that what we’re going with, Doc? Great–and 239 pounds, I am in perfect health. I could easily do this for another four to eight weeks before I get bored and start reviewing Star Wars instead or something.

But I do not keep watch over the world’s city council meetings by myself. My team of unpaid interns with questionable citizenship status work 18 hours a day reviewing footage, checking Robert’s Rules of Order, and not finding out what OSHA is. And—do not clap for them! Justice Breyer, DO. NOT. Anyway, I am thankful for my interns and as soon as I find out what college credit is, I will consider giving it to them.

Speaking of being thankful, tonight we have some esteemed guests in the gallery. Sitting next to the First Lady is past podcast guest Andy Richardson, city councilman in Charleston, West Virginia, who has since announced that he is running for mayor. Good luck, Councilman. And remember, you’ll always be the mayor of my heart.

Next to him is Lauren McLean, council member in Boise, Idaho who, surprisingly, was elected her council’s president this year. Council Member McLean was a former Scottish Highland dancer, so she’s no stranger to unusual moves.

And finally, we have Fresno, California Council Member Esmeralda Soria, who appeared on the podcast back in December as council vice president, but totally and expectedly became council president this month. But get this: outgoing President Clint Olivier tried to pull a fast one on her by simply not handing over the gavel until she called him out.

When Council Member Soria appeared on the podcast, we talked about her council’s tradition of giving a parting gift to the outgoing president.

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In case you were wondering, Clint Olivier received a watch and a Captain America portrait. And because he made it into this speech, I am also sending him a check for $10,000–what’s that? My horse lost at the track? Okay, scratch that. I am instead sending him, uh, let’s see…these, oh, these note cards that I am reading off of. So yeah, collectors items. Please clap.

Ladies and gentlemen, one brand new feature we rolled out this past year on the podcast was the Listener’s List–where anyone anyplace in the world could send me hot tips on city council hanky panky. We receive dozens of calls on the hotline each minute, so if you can’t get through, send your scoop to presssecretary@whitehouse.gov or through the City Council Chronicles Facebook page. One Listener’s List item became its own podcast episode last year, and it involved a marriage proposal in Flower Mound, Texas.

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Thank you, Jimmy. And thank you, Mr. Mayor, for keeping my secret. You know, the one involving, uh, herpes. The State of the City Council Meetings address is typically a time for good news. But because I am standing in Congress, where you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting someone with the competence of a dead cat, let’s get into that weird sh*t. Huh?! Senator McCain, you know what I’m talking about!

I spoke with recently retired Councilor Alberto Garcia of Westminster, Colorado about a bizarre month-and-a-half his city council spent dealing with one colleague who had a score to settle.

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I meant every word of that. Stand back! I’m soaked in deer urine. I don’t get much out of it, but it’s fun for the deer. Folks, normally the biggest threat a council member has to deal with is being yelled at by an angry public commenter. Oh, and bees. Bees are the silent killer. But in December, Lord Mayor Lesley Alexander of the city of Bristol walked me through a terrifying encounter she once had with a council saboteur.

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That is why I never travel anywhere without my team of snipers. Plus, my own Colt .45. Stand back! It is loaded and soaked in deer urine. The deer was a little nervous but the gun enjoys it.

Well, I see the hour is getting late and half of the South Carolina delegation is falling asleep–and not the good half. I’m kidding; there is no good half. Let me finish this address by reminding everyone that city councils are human. They cannot solve all problems, and that limitation can be frustrating and depressing. Nowhere was that better illustrated than in Juneau, Alaska, when I talked with Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl. I leave you, the nation, and the world with this story of when councils fall short.

Month in Review: November 2017

There was a lot to be thankful for in November. This includes the mundane and noble, such as firefighters battling infernos. Or, in one case, a city council getting rid of jail completely. Just imagine the Thanksgiving dinner conversations that THAT started!

We also had plenty of qualified–and Canadian–guests on the podcast, including the councilor who was slightly irked by his colleagues’ off-camera antics and the mayor whose council reenacted a 100-year-old meeting. Plus, we heard from a regular citizen whose claim to Chronicles fame was coming out as bisexual at one fateful Boise city council meeting.

For all of that and more, check out our November Month in Review.

And if you still are wondering whether you missed out on anything truly surreal this month, I submit to you this UNDOCTORED IMAGE of a councilman’s face on socks:

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A Very Council Christmas: The Chronicles’ Holiday Special

‘Twas the night before Christmas / And throughout City Hall,

Not a mayor was stirring / Nor a council near-brawl.

 

Public commenters were nestled / All snug in their beds,

While concocting some brand new complaints / In their heads.

 

When on people’s phones / There arose a loud clatter.

They opened up iTunes / To see what was the matter.

 

With a square yellow icon / People gave a small nod past,

For they knew what it was: / A brand new podcast.

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Yes, my friends, this is a special holiday edition of the City Council Chronicles podcast, covering highlights from our best interviews–including all the gifts, challenges, and vintage audio recordings I’ve offered my guests through the months. This “best of” is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:

You will hear excerpts from:

Interview #57: Christchurch, NZ Mayor Lianne Dalziel (with podcast)

Interview #65: London, UK Assembly Chair Jennette Arnold, OBE (with podcast)

Interview #71: Port Moody, BC Mayor Mike Clay (with podcast)

Interview #64: Mobile, AL Council Member Levon Manzie (with podcast)

“A Higher Expectation”: The Council Meeting and the Confession (with podcast)

If you liked what you heard, please give the podcast a five-star rating on iTunes and like our Facebook page. You’d be giving me everything I asked for on my Christmas list!

Month in Review: October 2017

October is an exciting month because you can always count on at least one city council to really get into the Halloween spirit. Sure enough, Wisconsin delivered. But there were plenty of other highlights, including a sudden competition between two cupcakeries and a mayoral field trip that I may have been invited to.

The podcast was also busy, as we heard from a former Scottish Highland dancer, a city manager who remembered the ejection of one council member, and a robot-heavy episode of our “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project. Look at the highlights in our October Month in Review.

And if you still aren’t convinced that last month was any different from the other 11 months of the year, THIS wizard-priest will cast a spell on you:

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“A Higher Expectation”: The Council Meeting and the Confession (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Last month, I interviewed Boise, Idaho Council Member Lauren McLean and we covered one unusual council meeting from November 13, 2012. At the Idaho state capitol, a crowded room watched the Boise city council take testimony on an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance.

But in the fourth hour, Tabitha Osteen stepped to the microphone. In this interview, I asked her about why that council meeting was a turning point in her life.

Q: Before November 13, had you seen an entire city council meeting?

A: No, I had not.

Q: So what was your mental image of what the council meeting would be like? Did you picture protesters? Did you picture an open bar? Did you imagine the mayor would enter through a smokescreen Michael Jackson-style?

A: Really, it didn’t fall too far from what I had imagined. What I was surprised–really pleasantly surprised–by was the sheer amount of people. I was with my then-partner and our child. It felt important for me to bring my family, my representation of love.

Q: About four and a half hours into the meeting, it was your turn to speak. Have you ever listened to what you said?

A: I have not.

Q: Let’s play the clip:

I was not planning on speaking because until this moment, I was not out. I can’t remember who it was who spoke earlier with Harvey Milk’s call to come out. It’s been on my mind for years. I fall into the B and the Q portion [of LBGTQ] and it’s been really easy to hide….I brought [my son] here because I wanted him to understand that a group of people can be strong and do the right thing and protect people who need it. He has no idea that I’m one of those.

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A: Honestly, I have a huge grin on my face and a little bit of watery eyes. It’s really encouraging to hear that and to bear witness to how much has changed….I just kept wondering if there were other people like me. There’s a lot of power and a lot of strength and a lot of calm that comes after that part’s done–from getting to live life out in the open more authentically.

Q: Do you think you would have said anything if your partner and son hadn’t gone home?

A: Oh, that’s a great question. Uh…yes, with much more trepidation! My ex-partner was intensely private and I am pretty intensely transparent. I don’t know that I would have changed my choice. I did feel called forth.

Q: I’ve seen council meetings where I would not call it a warm environment in which to come out. I would like to think that most councils want their meetings to be a welcoming place, but it sounds like if the environment was different, you would not have said anything.

A: Yeah, absolutely. It wasn’t a premeditated coming-out. It was a movement within myself by what was in the room. It was a response.

Q: Has this changed your expectations about what a city council meeting is like?

A: I think a demonstration of leadership like that always sparks a higher expectation of leadership. Not just in city council meetings; from everything. Something that’s so powerful about that city council environment: city councils are a representation of many aspects of a community coming together. It’s a weaving of different threads that wouldn’t necessarily see each other. In that environment, everything gets elevated.

Interview #68: Boise, ID Council Member Lauren McLean (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

In a first for City Council Chronicles, this week’s podcast guest gets her own piece of artwork to hang at city hall! I talk to Boise’s Lauren McLean about how her past as a dancer prepared her for council meetings. Plus, we spend a good while reliving the crowded council meeting from 2012 about an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance with a surprise ending.

Q: I heard that you did competitive Scottish Highland dancing until you were 20 years old. What are the similarities between Scottish Highland dancing and the Boise city council meetings?

A: Oh, good question! Let’s see…you have to be super nimble, have lots of energy, a good sense of timing…

Q: Mmhmm.

A: …and want to win.

Q: Nice. Has someone asked you that question before?! That was remarkably fast.

A: No! I just made it up right now.

Q: [Laughs] I love it! Your council has met in several places. What has been your favorite?

A: I really love our current chambers. We have this great piece of local art behind us that is an artist’s version of what Boise is to her. I love looking at the piece, turning around and looking at it occasionally when we’re in longer hearing nights. At one point, it disappeared for about a week. That’s when I realized how much our council members really liked the piece because we got it back right away.

Q: If I were to draw something inspired by this interview, would you hang that up?

A: Um, I might hang it up in my cubby at city hall. I’m so excited to see what I’m going to have up in my cubby/cubicle!

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Hang it!

Q: On November 13, 2012 you were over at the state capitol. You had hundreds of people there to speak on a non-discrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation. For the first hour-and-a-half, this massive room, plus overflow, had to sit through a mundane set of hearings about planning and zoning. If you could do it again, would you get to the juicy stuff right away?

A: Actually, I’m going to say [pause], I think we would make them sit through it again! It’s the only time we can get an audience that big that sees all the things we deal with.

Q: Most people outside Idaho think of it as a place with potatoes and people who don’t like gay people. Were you worried that by having a hearing on television about this topic, the image viewers would see is one anti-LGBT person after another? Or, even worse, one gay-hating potato after another?

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Boise, ID Council Member Lauren McLean

A: I wasn’t worried at all. I know our city. The image many people outside of the state have of Idaho is very different from the reality. Really progressive, vibrant, fast-growing cities and universities.

Q: Yeah, and the mood at times was actually pretty light. The mayor didn’t allow clapping, but he did let people do “spirit fingers.” Did the spirit fingers last beyond that one meeting?

A: They did! You don’t see them in council meetings, but when the proponents of the measure came back after the ordinance was passed, [the spirit fingers] came up again. It’s something that I see often in Boise now amongst council members and others–it’s lived on.


Follow Council Member Lauren McLean on Twitter: @laurenmclean

Month in Review: July 2017

July was noteworthy for two reasons. First: it was Mayor’s Month! That’s right, we talked on the podcast to an unprecedented four mayors from three continents. What we heard was heartwarming in some cases and tear-jerking in others.

Second: this being July, of course we saw fireworks! Mostly they were of the verbal variety. But in one case, someone actually brandished a firework in a council meeting. If you don’t remember that moment, perhaps you should browse our July Month in Review page.

And if you’re still questioning whether July’s council meetings are worth a second look, at least find out why this woman is so g–d– happy:

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Interview #55: Idaho Falls, ID Mayor Rebecca Casper (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Rebecca Casper thought that her city council meetings were “conventional” and that we wouldn’t have a lot to talk about. I’m happy to report: we had a LOT to talk about. At the end, she shared a candid reflection about how her first two years as mayor affected her friendship with another councilwoman. I cannot recommend it highly enough–go listen.

Q: When it comes to running the council meetings, which of the following best describes your style?

A. Iron-fisted tyrant

B. Lead-fisted tyrant

C. Bronze-fisted tyrant

A: [Laughs] I think it depends on who you’re talking to. I’m sure I’ll have an opponent in the election who will tell you that I am lead or iron!

Q: I consider you a very active mayor–and I don’t mean you’re running marathons. I mean that you explain very thoroughly for city council novices what is happening in the meeting. Why do you do that?

A: I attended my share of meetings as a candidate, watching and observing. It did sometimes seem as though they were performing steps to a dance I didn’t quite understand. So I wanted to make sure that when I had that opportunity to lead, I would make it clear to the public what was happening in their meeting. Because it really is their meeting, not ours.

Q: What procedures did you change when you became mayor?

A: Uh, not that I want to open up a can of worms…but the thing that has been the most procedurally difficult for everybody is the agenda-setting process. It can be quite the “power move” in some people’s minds. I don’t see it that way. I’ve had a couple council members who would like to just be able to order up a discussion. I’ve had a rule of thumb: either a [department] director has to request the agenda item or the council president does.

Q: Mmm.

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Idaho Falls, ID Mayor Rebecca Casper

A: If a council member wants to talk about something, the president can be the one who can tell that council member, “you know what? That’s a crazy idea.” Or “that’s a great idea.” Or “that’s kind of an interesting idea. Have you done the research?” And that council president can mentor the council member. I’ve had that little screening process and it hasn’t sat well with a couple council members.

Q: In your absence, does Council President Tom Hally do anything differently when presiding that you wish you did?

A: I think there’s plenty of cringe-worthiness no matter who’s running the meeting. I’m a little more rigid. Councilman Hally is a little more laid-back. I’m sure people appreciate that from time to time. Having a bossy mom figure all the time can’t be fun, and so–

Q: Is that how you see yourself?

A: That’s how I hear myself when I go back and listen. Especially as you’re playing all these clips now. I’m kind of uncomfortable!

Q: Oh, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable! I have to listen to my voice all the time for this and there are things I can’t stand and that I do work to fix. What is a similar tic of yours?

A: I would love to be able to be a little more lean with my language. Normally, I fill the awkward pause with blather. Gotta work on that.


Follow Mayor Rebecca Casper on Twitter: @CasperForMayor

Month in Review: January 2017

It is Presidents Days here in the U.S., which means we are taking this day to honor all of the city council presidents/chairs/mayors who make their meetings run like a finely-tuned clock. But more importantly, let’s have a look back at where we chronicled with the January month in review.

Take a moment to find a city council meeting review you haven’t read or a podcast episode you haven’t listened to, then spend your holiday catching up!

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