#131: Mobile, AL 9/19/17

You can’t simply snap your fingers in municipal government and make things happen. But you can sure as heck show up to public comment and TELL people to make things happen.

“It’s really long overdue and it’s something I want to get done,” a woman clad entirely in white ordered Mobile council members. “We need to get this done.” (“This” being renaming Glennon Avenue to “Dr. Yvonne Kennedy Avenue.”)

“I talked with Councilman [Levon] Manzie this morning,” she narrowed her eyes at him. “We’re going to have Dr. Kennedy’s name on the pole?”

“Yes, ma’am,” acknowledged Manzie.

“We’re also going to have Glennon Avenue on the pole?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“We wanna put a permanent plaque and–can I have my way with this? Doing what I want to do?” she inquired.

“No, ma’am!” Manzie exclaimed.

“I love having my way!” she threw up her hands and chuckled.

“I think Councilman Manzie hears you loud and clear,” intervened Council President Gina Gregory as the woman retreated in satisfaction.

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The lady’s got vision!

Success! Could there be anything more slam-dunk than a street named after a scion of the community?

Yes: Christmas.

“I’ve always enjoyed Elfapalooza,” a kindly man in a pink shirt smiled. “I’ve never actually put on my pointed ears and gone down in my tights. And, uh–”

“I’m visualizing that right now,” President Gregory deadpanned, prompting raucous laughter.

“Maybe if you give ’em the $40,000, I’ll do that this year!” the man replied.

“Might be worth it,” Gregory considered with a smirk.

He was, of course, referring to $40,000 proposed to revive the “North Pole Stroll.” It was a hot topic for a cold season, and Council Member John Williams was ready to wrap that present.

“This payment will be for holiday events and decorations,” he cheerfully made the motion.

But just as Christmas needs a Santa Claus, it also needs a fiscally-responsible Grinch.

“We’ve been assured that they’re going to have a robust Christmas celebration in downtown,” Council Member Manzie protested. “We don’t know what those activities will cost, so I’m a little hesitant.”

He added, logically, “if it’s a great success, the expectation will be that we need to continue [payments]. I would hate to start something and not continue in perpetuity.”

Council Member Fredrick Richardson attempted his own Scrooge impersonation. “Sometimes we need to leave well enough alone,” he grumbled.

“I think,” he softened, “we need to go back with the Christmas parade. It brings joy in the hearts of all.”

President Gregory called for a vote. It failed. The man in the pink shirt would not be wearing his elf ears and tights after all (although we can mark that in the “good news” column.)

Yikes. If the Mobile city council said no to Christmas, what would they say “yes” to?

“On Wednesday, I had the honor of being interviewed,” announced Council Member Manzie. “Michael Karlik runs a website and podcast called City Council Chronicles.”

“He came up with some new catchphrases for District Two. I promised I would play it in the meeting, but I can’t get it to function here,” Manzie admitted, trying to recall the catchphrases. “‘District Two: We have a Hardee’s.’ ‘District Two: Walk on the wild side!'”

“Well, Michael,” Gregory mused, “I’m guessing you’re watching….’Seventh Heaven?'” She glanced around as her colleagues giggled at her own district catchphrase.

“‘District Seven…Heaven.’ You gotta rhyme!” she insisted.

Council Member Richardson leaned into his microphone. “Did you get that, Mike?”

Yes, sir!

#77: Hutchinson, KS 1/3/17

Folks, 2017 will be a year of uncertainty. Fear. Turmoil.

But all of that faded away when the mustachioed man in the camo-sleeve pullover strode to the Hutchinson city council microphone.

You could tell: he was here to Make Hutchinson Great Again.

“I’m sure you’ve all received my petition in the mail. I’m here to formally represent that petition,” he intoned with a deep, reassuring voice. All signs pointed to this guy having some major grievance with the city council–but honestly, I could listen to him narrate movie trailers all day. His voice was that soothing.

But I’m sorry, you were saying something about tyranny?

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. And the government role is to protect our rights, not to find exceptions,” he murmured, like some sort of Ken Burns documentary.

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He has two guns in those sleeves and 25 in the bunker.

“Your opinion is your theology, and any opinion contrary to the fact I set forth is contrary to our basis of governance. That is why I am requesting repeal of the tax for the support of the sports arena. We’d like to see the city council repeal all ordinances that are destructive of the life, liberty, property, and prosperity of the people of Hutchinson.”

There was a dramatic pause as the John Williams musical score in my head stopped playing.

“Thank you. We appreciate it,” Mayor Jon Daveline casually replied. Then, cheerfully, “next item, please!”

The city attorney leaned forward in his chair, giving the audience an exclusive view of the hyper-expressive sign language translator.

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Love. Her.

“There was a bill passed by the Kansas legislature moving elections to the fall–and requiring an extension of your terms,” he announced. As a smirk spread across his lips, he added, “so let me be the first to thank you for your additional months of service!”

Everyone laughed, perhaps a bit TOO hard.

“This extends your terms from April of this year to January 2018,” he elaborated. “For those whose terms would have expired not in 2017 but in 2019, your terms are extended to 2020.”

Not everybody was elated.

“I mean, they [the voters] might want us out in April and we’re here for another eight months,” Councilmember Jade Piros de Caravalho observed with a mournful chuckle.

“So…the changing of the guard will not occur until WHEN?!” exclaimed the mayor half-jokingly.

“You’re stuck!” Councilmember Nancy Soldner clucked.

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Lock the doors.

At this point, Camo Sleeves jumped uninvited back up to the mic. Cue the music from Braveheart.

“The city does retain the right to stand up and say we will not comply with any law the state comes out with,” he urged them defiantly. “You do have that right. You don’t have to comply with their laws.”

Mayor Daveline shifted uncomfortably, no doubt realizing that the Civil War started over something similar to this. “We’re…gonna take the advice of our city attorney here–”

“The law is often the rule of tyrants,” Camo said firmly. “That’s just the way it is.”

The color had drained from the city attorney’s face. “Uh…the authority that a city has is granted to it by the state of Kansas. If they didn’t grant us the authority…we couldn’t exist.”

Final thoughts: It’s a tough call…they didn’t stand up to tyranny. But they did avoid an inter-governmental apocalypse. I give these council members 8 out of 10 camo-sleeve pullovers.