#172: Weyburn, SK 10/22/18

The camera zoomed out from the golden falcon resting on the table next to Mayor Marcel Roy. Its wings were raised, anticipating a takeoff. It was a spot-on mascot for a city council meeting, even if the agenda tonight was less than explosive.

“In 2018 September in comparison to 2017, the crimes against persons had decreased by one. Crimes against property has decreased by 14,” Councillor Mel Van Betuw read in a monotone from the police commission’s meeting minutes.

“At the end of September there were five dogs and 20 cats at the shelter, none fostered.”

All of a sudden, this routine report on cats and dogs pivoted to the major national event of the week with the drop of a single word.

“The board discussed the timeframe between recreational cannabis usage by police and reporting for duty,” Van Betuw announced. “The mayor suggested it be the same as in the military, which is 24 hours.”

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You let your military do the dew?!

He continued, “the board instructed the chief to advise his members that they require all police officers to go at least 24 hours from the time of cannabis usage before reporting for duty.”

Twenty-four hours? It’s hard to call it “recreational” cannabis when you have to plan it a day in advance. Mayor Roy chimed in with an explanation.

“With all this recreational marijuana going forward, there’s a lot of different issues. Calgary has issued a 28-day no-use of recreational marijuana, which basically gets down to null and void. The military has two [policies]: eight hours if you’re doing paperwork and 24 hours if you’re doing vehicles or weapons.”

He added, somewhat unnecessarily, “once the officer is on duty, there should be no use of recreational marijuana.”

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Only medicinal

From there, it was time to hear from the youth council mayor. Unsurprisingly, the city’s youth had also heard about their friend Mary Jane moving to town.

“Some business that was discussed included cannabis legalization and the impact on the youth,” the youth mayor said. “We also talked about a youth council social media strategy. We will make an Instagram page. We will continue to discuss ways to engage the youth in Weyburn and provide entertainment for young people as well.”

Non-drug-related entertainment was the subtext–although it’s nice that the youth now have options.

“The youth council made a motion to recommend that council appoints Lincoln Alexander to fill the last vacant seat on the youth council.” The youth mayor pointed out, “Lincoln is present tonight.”

“Welcome, my friend!” exclaimed Councillor Dick Michel as he made that very motion.

“Lincoln?” Mayor Roy nodded toward the audience. “Step up, if you would please.”

The new councillor joined the mayor for a picture, jokingly adjusting his shirt to pantomime the mayor buttoning his suit jacket. Both of them grinned.

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Good improv

Rounding out the day’s youth news, Councillor Michel performed his civic duty by bragging about the city’s sports teams.

“On Friday, the Weyburn Bantam Young Fellow Falcons captured the league title in football!” he proclaimed. “Weyburn defeated the Moose Jaw Razorbacks in Moose Jaw to claim this title. Gentlemen: a job well done.”

“I am going to the mayors’ caucus and administrators’ meeting on Thursday,” Mayor Roy remarked. “I will make note to the mayor of Moose Jaw that we beat them there. We will make sure that this well known at the mayors’ caucus.”

I’m happy to do my part here!

#110: Dieppe, NB 6/12/17

Something seemed off about the Dieppe city council meeting.

At first, I figured that the glass of wine I was drinking had reacted poorly with the five glasses of wine I just finished drinking. But then I realized: the audio was out of sync. And the reason was shocking.

They were speaking FRENCH!

“Without further ado, dear colleagues,” an offscreen translator spoke for Mayor Yvon Lapierre, “may we have the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change, the courage to change the things that we can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Lapierre shifted his eyes and cracked the tiniest of grins after no one from the audience accepted his invitation to speak. “It’s fairly calm tonight.”

So calm, in fact, that the creation of the brand new “Elsliger Street” passed unanimously without question or comment. The mayor, however, jumped in with une petite commentaire.

“Somebody during the week asked me, ‘Elsliger? Where does it come from?’ Well, it’s in honor of the woman who suggested the name Dieppe: Madame Agnès Elsliger.”

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Photo not available. But this is probably what she looked like.

From here, the meeting veered away from honoring old ladies into talking about…drugs.

“To DieppeMAG, they put the phone number for people who find syringes or needles,” trumpeted Councilor Patricia Arsenault, brandishing a copy of the magazine with a bicycle-riding child on the cover. “All they have to do is call that number to make sure that somebody’s going to take care of those things.”

But in fact, there is no hotline to call for another looming menace: Mary Jane. (Or, in French, Marie Jeanne.)

“All this is going to become legal on the First of July, 2018,” Councilor Arsenault warned. “The Medical Society of New Brunswick says it would be nice if we could increase the age to 21 years old.”

Legal marijuana for people under 21? Healthcare for everyone? Canada truly is a backwards county.

“Lastly, as a little puff of fresh air,” Arsenault smiled, perhaps intending that very clever pun, “a young 17-year-old Acadian launched his first CD.” She held up another newspaper with the budding artist’s picture.

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Imagine how many CDs he’ll put out with legal marijuana

“I hope that my shirt shows that it’s summer,” Councilor Jordan Nowland suddenly gestured to his Jimmy Buffet-style top.

“It would be a good idea to put EpiPens in public places,” he suggested. “Somebody who has an EpiPen–it can last for 20 minutes. This is where the second one, publicly accessible, would make a big difference.”

Between syringes, marijuana, and EpiPens, the city may soon have to rename Elsliger Street to “Medical Supplies Boulevard.”

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Ready to luau

Mayor Lapierre glanced askance at Councilor Jean-Marc Brideau. “Why the laughter, Monsieur Brideau?”

The bearded councilor looked fondly at a Canadian police officer sitting up front with arms folded. “I’ve been five years on council and I’ve always complained that we didn’t see the RCMP in Dieppe,” he chuckled.

“So I have to say, this afternoon, I had to had to wait to get out of my yard because there was a patrol car that had stopped right there!”

Well, if Councilor Brideau ever needs a police escort, they know where to find him.

Final thoughts: I give 8 out of 10 bowls of poutine to the English translator. Maybe next time he can get 10 out of 10 by doing the characters’ voices.

Interview #21: Burlington, VT Councilor Selene Colburn (with podcast)

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

Vermont is the land of maple syrup and Bernie Sanders. But it’s also home to some spicy city council happenings. I talked to Burlington Councilor Selene Colburn, who has some interesting connections to famous Vermonters and is also a dancer/choreographer!

Q: What’s the turnout like at city council meetings?

A: We have pretty packed meetings from time to time. Right now, we’re debating whether to change our zoning to allow a 14-story mall. Which doesn’t sound very tall, but it would be the tallest building in the state of Vermont.

Q: Fourteen stories?

A: Fourteen. And it would cause us to lose our distinction of being the state with the smallest tallest building. I think that honor will go to Maine!

Q: You have 12 council members. Four are Democrats, four are Progressive, three are independent, and one is a Republican. That sounds messy. Is it?

A: We make it work. It is pretty wild to have one Republican on a city council of 12 in a city of 40,000 people.

Q: Is this guy more of a build-the-wall Republican or an urbane, rational Republican?

A: He is not a build-the-wall Republican. He also serves dually as a state legislator and city councilor simultaneously. He’s what we call a “Vermont Republican.”

Q: In addition to being a city councilor, you are a dancer and a choreographer. If you could take the city council meetings and toss them aside and choreograph them to make them really pop, what would you change?

A: The public forum part is really frustrating for the public because they get their two minutes and they get to talk at the council–and then we move forward. There’s no back and forth from that point on really. Thinking choreographically, that’s like a prelude to the performance that compositionally doesn’t ping back to the main event ever.

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Burlington, VT Councilor Selene Colburn

Q: If Burlington city council meetings were a Ben & Jerry’s flavor, what would they be?

A. Hazed and Confused

B. Americone Dream

C: Vanilla

A: Definitely not vanilla. I’m gonna have to go with Hazed and Confused.

Q: You do realize that is a reference to marijuana, right?

A: [Laughs]

Q: Have you met Ben and/or Jerry?

A: I have! Jerry just endorsed my campaign. They’re really active locally politically. They never go anywhere without scooping ice cream. Every event we have in Vermont that is remotely lefty and political, someone is there scooping free Ben & Jerry’s.

Q: You would think with all that dessert, Vermont would be one of the most obese states.

A: We’re not, we’re pretty healthy. We walk, bike…jump around. I had a meeting with [a constituent] about some of her concerns about a project and she was like, “ugh! Enough with the walking and the biking and the jumping! I’m so tired of hearing about all the jumping!”

Q: [Laughs] Now, we are taping this before Election Day, but you are running for the Vermont state house of representatives and you are unopposed. So congratulations on your victory.

A: Thank you! I hope there’s no vigorous write-in campaign in the last 48 hours.

Q: That would be terrible news. And Donald Trump is our president now, so that’s not ideal.

A: [Gasp]


Follow Councilor Selene Colburn on Twitter: @selene_colburn

#1: Pittsburgh, PA 4/5/16

With eyes so steely they could’ve been smelted right here in Pittsburgh, city council president Bruce Kraus pounded his gavel from atop a kingly perch of wood, summoning the council members to feast upon the people’s business.

“Councilwoman Harris, we need you back in chambers please!” the bald-headed statesman pleaded, glancing at the long row of empty desks before him where a mere two council members sat.

The young Corey O’Connor rose first to offer a resolution declaring Friday “PACE Day,” whatever that is. Sirens blared by outside, leading the bespectacled and frat presidential-looking councilman to pause and joke, “it’s a busy day out there.” Were I present, I would have retorted, “It’s a busy day in here, too. Now get crackin’!”

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Councilman Corey O’Connor, also your senior class treasurer

The bearded Councilman Daniel Gilman next commended a group called the Snow Angels, which shovels snow for Pittsburghers. Also, he just said the inherently-funny word “Pittsburghers.” Are you thinking about a bunch of people walking around wearing giant sesame seed buns? I am. Gilman handed the commendation to one Snow Angel even more bearded than he. This hipster Paul Bunyan joked about moving from South Carolina to shovel snow, which got a big laugh. Are you taking notes, Councilman O’Connor?!

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Snow Angel and professional facial hair archivist

Council president Kraus opened the public comment period, giving concerned citizens three minutes to speak and vowing that “order will be maintained at all times.” There was little chance of a riot–the first testifier merely wanted to plug her new gospel song and the other speaker used the phrase “wind swirling snow crystals” while reading from his poetry.

Moving on to bills, Councilwoman Darlene Harris, having finally moseyed on in to the chambers, indicated she would be voting no on “the marijuana bill.” It’s a state and federal issue, she said and “I took an oath to uphold local, state, and federal law.” Councilman Ricky Burgess came back with “I do not in any way support the consumption of illegal drugs. The consumption of many legal drugs I do not support…I do not think people should drink alcohol.” Are these people trying to out-Puritan each other? Which council member is going to come out against pre-marital sex? Councilman O’Connor, I’m looking at you.

Councilman Burgess was wound up like a speeding freight train. Calling the effect of the drug war “worse than slavery,” he thundered that they hire white people in prisons “to make a living off of inner city black males.” He ended up voting yes on the “marijuana bill” and, like a true patriot, returned to fiddling with his cell phone.

After the drama subsided, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith clutched her pearls and came out in favor of a year-round employment program for youths. Coincidentally, her teenage constituents came out with a consensus that “oh my god, we hate you, MOM.”

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Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith says “put down the XBox” and “pick up the want ads,” kids

Council president Kraus closed out the meeting by requesting everyone come to tomorrow’s opioid addiction seminar for his big speech. He paused and stared at Councilwoman Harris, who was apparently causing some commotion.

“Is there something wrong, councilwoman?”

“No, Mr. President. Nothing at all,” she replied, sounding just a teensy bit sarcastic.

On a lighter note, for those of you not attending the opioid meeting, Councilman Gilman will be having a city vs. county free-shooting competition tomorrow also.

Final thoughts: coming in just shy of 90 minutes, with a relatively tame public comment period and good behavior by everyone except for troublemaker Darlene Harris, I give the Pittsburgh City Council meeting 7 out of 10 stars.