#134: Iowa City, IA 10/3/17

Mayor Jim Throgmorton couldn’t avoid it. He had to address it. And within the first minute, he joined thousands of other mayors at council meetings across the country in saying:

“I want to express our profound shock and grief about the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas.”

He frowned deeply. “Will this sequence of mass killings never end?”

After ordering a minute of silence, the mayor looked up, attempting to lighten the mood.

“Sometimes transitions can be very awkward,” he acknowledged with an avuncular grin. “We have two proclamations.”

Now, if the first proclamation were for “Clowns and Balloon Animal Appreciation Week,” it might have indeed been an awkward transition. But in reality, the segue was far more muted from gun horrors to…Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“How do you move forward when the one place you are supposed to be safe is no longer?” a woman stood at the lectern and gave a heartfelt acceptance speech for the proclamation. “When everything about your life has been controlled in every way?”

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The rhetorical questions were strong today.

Because Columbus Day was fast approaching, the next proclamation naturally declared–well, not what you’d expect for Iowa:

“Iowa City is built on the homelands of the indigenous peoples and the city is dedicated to opposing systemic racism,” Mayor Throgmorton read. “The city encourages other businesses, organizations, and institutions to recognize Indigenous People’s Day.”

Being a business, an organization, and an institution, City Council Chronicles will up the ante and declare next week Indigenous People’s WEEK. Ball’s in your court, Iowa City.

Moving on to the student representative from the University of Iowa, he informed the council that “we held our first town hall to figure out what topics they had on their minds. The topic was voted on via Twitter poll–we’re millennials, how else would we do things?” he took a small dig at his generation.

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Some of my best college memories were Twitter polls.

He added, in the college spirit: “real quick shameless plug for my fraternity’s philanthropy. We are hosting a 0.1K on October 15.”

Several people giggled at the premise, but he continued wryly. “I understand that’s a far distance and y’all aren’t trained for it. We’ll have a watering hole at the halfway mark.”

“Do you think it’s gonna take that long to run it?” quizzed Council Member Susan Mims facetiously.

“It might,” the student deadpanned, prompting chuckles.

The mayor sat up as he remembered something. “Hey Ben, I’d like to note that on November 28, I’m going to be visiting with student government.”

“You will!” Ben agreed.

“Yeah. I’m looking forward to that.” His brow furrowed and he raised his voice. “BUT IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!”

“We’ll have a cupcake for you,” Ben insisted. “Do you prefer Molly’s [Cupcakes] or Scratch [Cupcakery]?”

“Molly’s,” hissed several council members and folks in the audience. The mayor was forced to acquiesce to the seething mob.

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Partisan crowd

“The Englert [Theater] has done it again,” Council Member Terry Dickens informed his colleagues breathlessly. “They’re bringing Arlo Guthrie! It’s pretty exciting that we get somebody of that quality here.”

“Terry?” Mayor Throgmorton leaned in and cheekily made reference to a Guthrie song, “where can you get everything you want?”

Dickens didn’t miss a beat. “The Englert!”

The mayor was disappointed his joke didn’t land. “No! You can get everything you want–”

“One of his great songs, yes,” Dickens nodded without taking the bait.

Final thoughts: For the record, the answer is “Alice’s Restaurant.”

#21: Raymore, MO 5/23/16

“Size doesn’t matter” was the motto of this week’s Raymore city council meeting. Looking around the chamber, you’d think an F5 had blown away half the council: four people were AWOL, including the mayor.

President Pro Tem Derek Moorhead, himself anything but small, soldiered ahead for the 20,000 souls in Ray-town (not its real nickname). “I have a wonderful proclamation for a wonderful cause: the Missouri Retired Teachers Association,” he boomed, towering over the white-haired woman who came to accept the award.

Can I keep it, she asked after he was done reading.

“That’s yours, absolutely!” President Moorhead exclaimed.

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Wanted, Dead or Alive: Half of the Raymore City Council

Not only was the council a few hands short, the city manager was without his deputy. “She is, as you all know, in Las Vegas with the economic development team and the mayor,” he sighed. “She sent me a picture this afternoon.”

How do you like them apples! She and the mayor are taking selfies with Celine Dion, while everyone else is stuck here talking about…mudjacking?

“We’ve spent just a little over $40,000 for the mudjacker this year,” a staff member told the council. “So right now we have achieved break even.” Three council members applauded vigorously–less for the jacking of mud and more for the saving of dough.

More good news: “Next Monday, May 30, there is no council meeting because it is Memorial Day,” the city manager huzzahed. “I believe it will be the first Monday in five months that you all will have off.” (Well, technically the first Monday those five council members who AREN’T playing craps in Sin City have off.)

Then, a huge piece of news. Groundbreaking. Earth shattering.

“An ordinance,” the clerk read, “authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with Kansas City Audiovisual for the purchase and installation of a council chambers video system.”

HALLELUJAH, I screamed through my monitor. In case you haven’t noticed, the cameras the city council is apparently borrowing from the middle school AV department aren’t “showing me” much in the Show-Me State. Everyone voted aye.

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Are they voting yes or stretching? It’s too blurry to tell!

Before long, this cozy council meeting was all wrapped up. President Moorhead had a few heartfelt words in parting. “Having a father as a teacher, I have to say that I don’t even know why we call them ‘retired’ teachers…they’re just teachers with no class in session,” he rhapsodized like a modern-day Langston Hughes.

“I remember [former] Mayor [Pete] Kerckhoff always used to mention the weather and the farmers market. I believe the farmers market officially opens on June 7–”

“June 14!” someone called out.

“June 14,” the president pro tem recovered. “I can’t predict the weather, though. Good luck on that. Hope it doesn’t rain.”

With a shrug, the council eagerly adjourned to enjoy a nice quiet holiday–except for the mayor, who will be doing body shots in the presidential suite of the Bellagio.

Final thoughts: For being the only council so far to upgrade their video quality, I give this meeting the Full Siskel and Ebert: 2 out of 2 thumbs-up!