#152: McMinnville, OR 2/27/18

Right away, McMinnvillians knew something special awaited at the top of the council meeting–almost as special as me calling them “McMinnvillians.”

“Because we’ve had a last-minute change in agenda, we’re going to ask for Chloe to come up and speak to us for about ten minutes,” announced council President Kellie Menke, “on the matter of a prototype that she has built.”

The 11-year-old Thomas Edison took her seat at the witness table in the vast gulf between the council dais and the audience.

“Could somebody help her get the microphone just a little closer?” requested Menke, noticing that the mic was not prepped for a much shorter human than normal.

“I am here as a support for Chloe,” clarified the woman to her left. “I’m her teacher.”

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Field trip!

“This project started in my language arts class. We watched a video on CNN for kids. There was a woman in San Francisco who created a mobile shower unit for the transient population,” explained the teacher. “We were talking about one day very soon, they’re gonna be the leaders of McMinnville.”

So, like any teacher looking to stimulate young minds, what did she do?

“I offered extra credit for anyone who came up with a creative solution.”

Chloe launched into a breakdown of her brainchild–a concept simple to understand, easy to visualize, and with a catchy name.

“The Wheel-A-Bed would be like a small–not necessarily a house, but like a shelter,” she described. “The idea is to make a small, about 7′ x 2′ x 2′ box-like shelter with a hollow inside. It would consist of a blanket or small mattress and small microwave for cooking food. The light bulb would be an LED light. The shelter would be solar powered.”

7′ x 2′ x 2′? That seems rather…casket-sized. But as Chloe pointed out, better this than a real casket.

“Homeless people need a shelter to keep them away from thieves, diseases, rain, criminals, and I think you get my point,” she said. Like a shrewd salesperson, she did momentarily acknowledge the device’s weakness.

“One con is the fact that the Wheel-A-Bed does only fit one person. It would be hard to think of just one way to fund a project like this. I know that my aunts, uncles, and grandparents would probably love to donate.”

“May she come up to show you her prototype?” inquired her teacher.

“Oh, we’d love to see it! Yes!” gushed council President Menke.

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Tiny House? More like “Slender House.”

Chloe walked slowly across the room, holding up the shoebox-sized model with wheels.

“Very creative!” “Very nice!” complimented the councilors.

“Good job, mom and dad!” exclaimed Menke.

It was certainly a unique prelude to a council meeting. But this isn’t San Francisco, after all. I don’t see how McMinnville–the Paradise of the Pacific Northwest–could benefit from Chloe’s alternative sleeping chamber.

“I can understand the resistance of having RVs, campers, and cars parked in people’s residential neighborhoods, but the people living in these vehicles are still considered homeless,” pleaded the next commenter. “They are still people but are choosing a different lifestyle than most.”

“I’m also here to speak to the RV ordinance,” admitted another woman. “I am really concerned about the fines.”

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Hmm, maybe the Wheel-A-Bed is more relevant than I thought….

“On March 21, we are going to allocate a certain portion of our workshop time to vehicular camping,” President Menke reminded everyone.

Well, Madam President, I know an 11-year-old visionary who I hope you invite!

#28: Phoenix, AZ 6/15/16

Triumphant news from Phoenix city hall! Like the mythical bird rising from the ashes, a shimmering new council member rose to fill the vacant District 3 seat.

“Welcome to Councilwoman Stark,” Mayor Greg Stanton congratulated the beknighted Sun Valley servant. “You have some tough votes today. Welcome to the dais.”

She was further welcomed by a few fair Phoenicians gently begging the council’s favor.

“I wanted to show you the lights here are LEDs,” said a professorial-looking man who shined a laser pointer at the ceiling as attendees craned their necks. “But in the center here are the yellow white lights that I have in my house,” he circled the laser like a TED Talk presenter.

“We’re just asking the city to take a careful look at the options. Soft white is a good choice,” he smiled, pocketing the pointer.

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Phoenix: come for the council meeting, stay for the light show.

“It’s my birthday today and I wanna share something,” a woman in a pink blazer gushed excitedly. “Monday, we did meet downtown–and what do we do every Monday? We! Get! Out!” she pumped her arms while chanting the catchphrase.

“We meet at The Corner restaurant. There are a lot of discounts! There are free raffle tickets! We walk or run and there’s music!” She slyly grinned at the council. “Happy birthday to everybody!”

“Thank you very much,” the mayor picked up on the cue. “I hope I’m not in violation of open meeting law by wishing Ms. Barker a happy birthday.”

“You’re good, mayor!” the city attorney hollered.

Next on the agenda were several liquor license applications. The mayor held a voice vote, with everyone voting aye. Suddenly, a screech came over the speaker.

Mayor Stanton’s eyes darted, until he realized what was happening.

“Councilwoman Pastor, are you on the phone?”

“Yes,” the councilwoman’s voice crackled, sounding like she was in a school bus full of kindergartners caught in a tornado.

“Did you vote aye on that item?” he asked into the abyss.

“Yes!” the voice screeched.

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The mayor’s “I-hear-voices” face

Because it was her first day, it was time for the hazing of newbie Councilwoman Debra Stark. Council members had to set a special election to see if the good Phoenicians wanted her to stick around.

“Councilwoman Stark, are you going to declare a conflict of interest on this?” Hizzoner inquired.

“I think I should,” she chuckled nervously.

There was only one comment, from a devoted Starkhead. “I personally prefer the person siting there,” he gestured toward the councilwoman, before chiding the staffer with a hot trigger finger. “I’m not sure when you start your clock, but please let me get to the podium, so when I start speaking–you probably are doing that, but I thought I heard the beeper go off before I even got out of my chair.”

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This man wants his FULL two minutes, Timekeeper!

The final ordinance? New retail at the airport, with one fancy addition:

“If this passes, Councilman Valenzuela will get his spa at the airport,” Mayor Stanton ribbed his exfoliated colleague. (It passed, much to the delight of the councilman’s pores.)

“That was one of our quicker meetings,” the mayor bragged, glancing way down the dais. “Councilwoman Stark, you brought us good luck!”

Final thoughts: New light bulbs, new spa, and new councilwoman. Wow! Talk about a mythical rebirth! I give this meeting 8 out of 10 soft white bulbs.