The biggest news out of April was that we hit our 100th city council meeting review! This project has crisscrossed the United States, with stops in Canada and Australia along the way. Who knows where the future will take us? Europe? Antarctica? The moon?!
Last month, we covered the full range of emotions: sad, angry, confusing…that’s it. But trust me, you’ll be as surprised as this lady to see what kind of council hijinks took place in April!
“Mr. President,” drawled Councilman Glynn Pichon, “I’d like to remove 3288 Effie Street from the condemnation list and assign it to the city attorney’s office.”
Barely two minutes after roll call, this verbal hand grenade was tossed into the Slidell city council meeting. Well-dressed men in the audience frantically hunted through stacks of paperwork as city attorney Bryan Haggerty rubbed his tired eyes at the podium.
“The homeowner did demolish the property; the cleanup has not been completed,” Haggerty said with a frown, compulsively uncapping and recapping his pen.
“If I may, Mr. President, if anyone’s here that has any interest in the property, would you please come forward?” Haggerty wheeled around and scanned the chamber.
“Let the record reflect: no one appeared.”
Whew. Turned out this grenade was a dud. However, as soon as Council President Jay Newcomb flipped the page, calling out the name of 321 Cousin Street, the rumpled attorney rose again with an even more troubled look.
“Mr. France,” Haggerty summoned forth the shaggy, gray-haired building safety director as his first witness, “I know you’ve participated in some of the meetings. Would you provide the council an update?”
“Mr. Stanley proposed a plan to replace the electrical wiring and making that safe,” France slowly testified, bracing himself on the podium. “As well as the exterior of the building being brought up to 100 percent compliance.”
From memory, he impressively rattled off everything that the owner, this mysterious Mr. Stanley, had to fix: “All the rotten materials, the broken materials. The porch. The columns. The exterior doors. That does not include the heating, cooling, ventilation, and/or any plumbing deficiencies.”
Haggerty stood and cut to the chase. “These would be the three options. The first one: Mr. Stanley would have to appear tomorrow with his contractor. If he would fail to appear, we’re gonna ask the council to order all utilities be disconnected, and this matter be set in two weeks for condemnation.”
He wiped his nose. “The second option would be that Mr. Stanley work out a building permit with a schedule–it’s a schedule we are VERY strict about.”
France stood impassively as council members leaned in for the remaining ultimatum. “The third option would be that the permit would be issued, but if the work stopped or ceased for whatever reason, we would immediately cut off all utilities.”
All heads swiveled to the right end of the dais. Councilman Pichon knew this case inside and out–the final judgment was his.
“I’m gonna use the second option here to require Mr. Stanley to meet with Joe France tomorrow to submit a plan. Because of the public safety concern, which is a real threat,” Pichon clasped his hands and stared grimly at the lawyer, “if Mr. Stanley failed to meet with Joe France, the city is authorized to disconnect utilities by the close of business tomorrow.”
To administer the sentence, Haggerty beckoned Stanley forward. The man planted himself glumly at the podium and stared at the floor.
“I want to make sure you understood. You’re in agreement with that?”
“I am,” he responded.
“Okay,” Haggerty gestured to the audience. “Make sure you meet with Mr. France to set a time for tomorrow.”
“Ten-thirty. My office,” France ordered.
Stanley nodded. “That’s fine.”
Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to swift Southern justice.
During this Labor Day weekend, it’s a good time to remember all of the people who labor hard every week at city council meetings for hours and hours–or, sometimes, for 19 minutes. Catch up on where City Council Chronicles visited in the month of August.
P.S. If you didn’t see our appearance in last week’s Baltimore Sun, don’t worry–my intern spends 23 hours every day reading each newspaper in the country to see who mentions The Chronicles. And he finally found one!
Louisiana! Land of crawdads and Mardi Gras! Laissez les bon temps rouler on the Hammond city council!
“Mr. President,” drawled Councilman Jason Hood, “several weeks ago I saw an article in our local paper about a young man doing a service project for Miss Louise. I don’t do a lot of this, but I wanted to bring him here”–to show him a good time on Bourbon Street?!–“to recognize him for what he has achieved.”
The councilman added, “Kyle, come on up–I’m gonna give the people an example what kind of person gets this [Eagle Scout] badge: nine Medal of Honor winners were Eagle Scouts. One former president, Supreme Court justice, several astronauts, and numerous prominent, successful businessmen.”
Oh, sure, overlook the serial killers and ne’er-do-wells who also made Eagle Scout. Come on, council. This is Louisiana–let’s hear about debauchery and booze! Like you, the well-dressed man looking for an alcohol permit:
“We ask all applicants of alcohol permits to come before council to make sure you understand the laws,” lectured council President Michael Williams. “Any sale to minors is not going to be tolerated.”
“Yes, sir. I understand that. Yes, sir,” obediently responded the man as he clutched the podium.
Mayor Pete Panepinto came to his defense. “Mr. Richardson runs a clothing store on the corner. So if he runs it anything like he runs that store, it’s gonna be great.”
Suddenly, a movement caught Williams’s eye. “I’m sorry, Miss Louise?”
A woman with short blonde hair and a blue t-shirt rushed forward and planted herself behind Mr. Richardson.
“I’m sure that you’ve checked the proximity to the church that’s right there as to whether there would be any kind of a–”
Several council members gestured in objection. “Further down! Much further down!”
“Thank you,” Miss Louise said politely, returning to her seat. The council approved Mr. Richardson’s alcohol license.
Well, I’ll be damned. I’ve seen more drama at a middle school PTA meeting. Surely there must be someone willing to raise a ruckus in this sleepy burb!
“Ordinance to approve request to rezone a lot at 28 South Orange Street,” President Williams read, glancing up just in time to see a towering woman marching deliberately towards the podium.
“I got held up on a case this afternoon, so I missed the opportunity for public comment,” she brushed aside the council. “But Orange Street is my street. And if you’ll entertain me–”
“Sure,” President Williams murmured.
“I drive down that street several times a day. I’m also secretary for the neighborhood association. Our neighbors are cautiously supportive of the rezoning. But in the future, who’s to say what’s gonna happen with that property?”
She dropped her notes on the podium for emphasis. “We’re here to say that we’re supportive of development…just not forget that we’re back there.”
A long pause lingered. Would someone cue The Breakfast Club theme? Eventually, President Williams mumbled, “so moved.”
It passed unanimously.
Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to Miss Louise for vigilantly protecting the Lord’s House from the scourge of alcohol-serving restaurants.