#143: Littleton, CO 12/5/17

Freshly sworn in and ready for business, the Littleton city council backed out of the driveway and, metaphorically, immediately hit the mailbox.

Not only were two new council members absent, but one citizen marched down to raise hell about “Candy and Cash”-gate.

“At the last meeting when the recognition of the council members who were leaving–let’s see if I say this right,” she dramatically donned her eyeglasses and stared at the transcript.

“Citizens asked for time to make recognition also. [One council member] said, ‘this group may give us candy.’ Council Member [Phil] Cernanec said, ‘we appreciate cash’ and I’m sure that was a joke.”

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Ix-nay on the ash-cay.

She whipped off her glasses and point-blank recited how much the council members ten feet from her had received in campaign contributions from the cash-and-candy jokesters.

“I’m very concerned about special access for special interests. This raised all the red flags for me. I’m going to suggest it was out of order. I’m sure it was well-intentioned and I’m also sure that it was bad.”

Agreed. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is jokes about bribery at a council meeting. (Although I am open to changing my views for a simple wire transfer of $8,000 or greater.)

Returning to the council meeting, the city attorney had another dire warning if Littleton didn’t change the definitions in its tax code.

“The legislature goes back into session on January 5. I have to tell the council it’s very, very critical that we do this,” he asserted with a wry smile.

“Property tax does not pay city bills. Sales tax does. If cities do not demonstrate this willingness to look at their tax codes, I think we will be at risk of having our sales tax authority impinged.”

The stakes were straightforward enough. The real heavy lifting, however, went to Council Member Kyle Schlachter, who read an ordinance title so lengthy and complex, it was almost as hard to comprehend as the tax code itself.

“I move to approve ordinance 35-2017 amending Title 3, Chapter 9, Sections 9-9-1-2, 3-9-3-2, 3-9-1-10, and 3-9-6-12 of the city code,” he announced triumphantly.

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Noooooooooo! After all that hard work!

“I need a motion, please,” requested Mayor Debbie Brinkman, flipping through a routine emergency medical transportation enterprise fund budget.

“I move to approve the ordinance,” Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Valdes began calmly enough, “entering into a trust agreement for the Colorado Firefighters–”

“Nope!” the mayor halted him.

“I’m on the wrong one!” exclaimed Valdes, frantically poking at his tablet screen. “Take over, Kyle!”

“All right,” quickly rebounded Council Member Schlachter. “I move to approve the amendment to the Emergency Medical Transport Enterprise Fund 2017 Budget.”

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He is getting quite the reputation as the council’s resident reader.

Eyeing the clock near the end of the meeting, Mayor Brinkman turned to the city manager. “City manager, do you have any report?”

“I do not,” he informed her cheerfully.

“Good,” she replied absent-mindedly. Audience members started to snicker, prompting her to quickly reconsider her choice of words.

“I mean, THANK YOU!” she gushed, somewhat facetiously. As the chuckling subsided, she gave a stern parting reminder to the council.

“I need those who have not given me their goals for 2018, please send me those by the end of the week.”

I can think of one goal: get Mayor Pro Tem Valdes a tutorial for that iPad.

#141: Loma Linda, CA 11/14/17

With a roomful of men sitting around the dais, it was only a matter of time before the Loma Linda council meeting turned to…cars.

“This is one of those ordinances that the legislature, in their wisdom, has required us to adopt,” the city attorney folded his hands and remarked dryly. “For review and approval of electric vehicle charging stations.”

“Would the mayor like to give personal testimony?” quizzed Council Member Ron Dailey, glancing cheekily across the desk.

Mayor Rhodes Rigsby chuckled at this reference to his own electric car. “I’m appreciative of the Target parking lot off Sierra in Fontana,” he said of the megastore’s free charging station.

“It’s rescued me from foolish, long trips to the west side of the county with insufficient charge to return home!”

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Oh, great. The secret’s out on the Target parking lot charging station.

Apparently, his car was a sweet–but not illegal–deal. “I’m also appreciative to Fiat for essentially giving me the car. And it’s offered to the public, so they’re not buying me off as a politician.”

He paused and racked his brain for a few stats right out of Car and Driver. “They’re attached to Chrysler, and Chrysler sells a lot of Hemis that don’t get the best gas mileage. So they need the 112 miles per gallon of my car to compensate. I’m doing them a service!”

There’s a reelection slogan: “I’m doing Chrysler a service!”

Something else Mayor Rigsby was doing? Trigonometry in his head.

“I don’t know whether it takes into account sines and cosines and tangents or whether it’s pointed straight down the street,” he mused about the proposed speed radar sign on Beaumont Avenue. “I’ve always wondered that: do you calculate how much you need to compensate for the sine of the angle?”

This being a city council meeting, not the Society of Professional Engineers’ meeting, we may never know. However, Council Member Dailey piped up with a second, more relatable quandry.

“My challenge is, I know there’s not a camera in there to ticket you. But my wife doesn’t believe me,” he said. “So she has her own brake pedal on her side of the car–”

“And she’s constantly pressing it,” the mayor nodded, no doubt familiar with his colleague’s driving habits.

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The secret to marriage is…an instructor’s brake pedal?

From harrowing car trips, the meeting turned to harrowing rescues.

“You’re true defenders…thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” the mayor read sincere thank you cards and letters addressed to the Loma Linda Fire Department, which had been helping Northern Californians battle their wildfires.

“Maybe they have a board they can put them up on?” Council Member Dailey raised his eyebrows at the fire chief.

“Usually we’ll get two or three [cards] on a big assignment,” explained the chief. “But that’s just today’s. I’ve got dozens.”

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You earned them.

While it may seem a little premature to be talking about Christmas in Southern California already (high temperature today: 78 degrees), it was essential to spread some Yule log-sized news about this year’s Christmas tree lighting.

“I understand this is going to be a MUCH larger production than usual,” grinned Mayor Rigsby. “They’ve invited a choir of angels to sing, from what I’ve heard.”

He added, “in the past, it’s been analogous to a Charlie Brown episode. Now it’s going to be more like an ‘evening at the pops.'”

“Sounds good to me!” responded a stoked Council Member Dailey.

Get there safely–and slowly.

Interview #70: Mountain View, CA Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga (with podcast)

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

Mountain View is home to Google and to a very polite city council. Margaret Abe-Koga served two terms on the council, took two years off, then was elected again in 2016. She talks about the negative stereotypes she faced initially, how people treated her during her year as mayor, and her positive experience phoning in to a council meeting from home.

Q: It’s interesting–a lot of European cities do what Mountain View does, where the mayor is not elected separately, but a council member has the position for a year and it rotates. One thing I heard is that when you’re only mayor for a year, you don’t get as much respect. What do you think about that?

A: I definitely felt more respect. A former council member in Palo Alto who served as a county supervisor said one time how very few people know what a county supervisor does. But everybody knows what a mayor is because every city in the world has a mayor. There was that recognition. I was vice mayor to Tom Means and I had to fill in for him oftentimes. But when I would call and offer to show up, sometimes I would get declines because I was ONLY the vice mayor!

Q: Do you think that council members who talk for too long have been a problem in the meetings? Or does everyone hate a chatty council member until you bring up something THEY care about? Then all of a sudden, they don’t think it’s so bad to talk for ten minutes about it.

A: I think everybody starts out thinking that chatty council members are challenging but I would say we all at some point have been that chatty council member. When I first started, I actually had folks come up to me and say, “why don’t you talk more?” I did feel like I had to speak up just to speak up. The public noticed when I didn’t say much.

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Mountain View, CA Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga

Q: When citizens said that to you, did you read anything into that? About you being a young person, a woman, an Asian person–how they were projecting their ideas of how you should present yourself onto you?

A: Yes. I had folks who thought I was nice and sweet. Some thought I was too sweet to be an elected leader. That was what one of the newspapers said about me, so they didn’t endorse me. [I’m] fairly petite, Asian, I smile a lot, but there definitely were stereotypes. When I became mayor, I had a hate e-mail saying, “you folks are overrunning the city. Go back to where you came from.” I frankly, unfortunately, expected that to happen.

Q: I should point out, you were the only Asian person on the city council. It’s hardly an overrun!

A: [Laughs]

Q: That makes me think about the rotating, one-year term for the mayor and I guess that’s a virtue of everyone having the chance to be mayor at some point. You get to try out a “nice” style. You know you’ll get your shot.

A: That’s true. It ties into the politeness of our council. The fact that we take turns is a very polite way of handling it….The downside is [the term is] short, but if you’re not doing a good job, it’s only a year!


Follow Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga on Twitter: @margaretabekoga 

#139: Madison, WI 10/31/17

It was the final day of October, so you know what that meant:

Council. Meeting. Costumes.

“Mr. Mayor, we have a quorum,” the clerk called out to Mayor Paul Soglin.

“Thank goodness,” murmured the mayor before shooting a bemused glance at council President Marsha Rummel. “What would you like to do?” he inquired warily.

Other council members cackled as Rummel, wearing a lace garment on her head and several buttons on her shirt, flipped on her mic.

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” she retorted in character as Mary Harris Jones.

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You…you could have bought a wig.

Alder Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, herself in a modest-looking Wonder Woman outfit, used her superpowers for the most mundane of purposes: “On item 56, I requested that it be noted that I’m recusing myself,” she asked politely.

“Anybody else have comments or observations?” Mayor Soglin gazed around the room. He paused and grinned.

“This looks like it’s going to work out quite nicely since it appears that a signficant number of members need to be out on the streets tonight. And Sara is waiting for me at home to watch the last three episodes of ‘Stranger Things’.”

Council members snickered. But they weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the loosened dress code tonight.

“This particular topic sort of touched a nerve,” a public commenter ornately dressed as a hybrid wizard-priest said about a proposed alcohol license. “I would’ve had my pine bough here to bless you with water because god knows we need blessing right now, including on this issue,” he pantomimed spraying water.

“While I’ve got huge issues with this particular co-op choosing to become one more place selling alcohol and eliminating the sanctuary for some sensitive people to shop for healthy food without alcohol…how can we serve the soul?” he asked rhetorically, wearing the perfect attire for his argument.

“So I’ll put my pine bough up here soaked with water,” he again pretended to toss streams of water onto the council. “Bless you and bless the city.”

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Forgive me, public commenter, for I have sinned.

It was corny, but there was no time to savor the moment. For standing at the lectern was the scariest costume of the night: a man dressed as a big, bad developer.

“You can see a variety of housing types–the multifamily and mixed-use as previously located, with the park and the school site located in the center and east portion,” the Dark Lord gestured to his colorful map as a chill swept the room.

Council President Rummel was now in the presiding chair–the mayor having possibly ducked out early to finish “Stranger Things” with his wife as promised. (I think we’ve all struggled to choose between chairing a council meeting and binge-watching TV, so I get it.) She opened the floor to public comment.

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Wait…maybe he really is a developer.

“We would like to have certain conditions placed to make sure the neighborhood stays the good, vibrant neighborhood it is today,” one citizen pleaded.

“Right now during peak hours, that gets backed up past Kwik Trip,” explained another.

“The fix was in,” ranted a third man with a ponytail and faint New Jersey accent. “I’ve never seen a bigger fix. The fix is in. The deal is done. Too bad.”

“The fix” must have been pretty deep, for the entire council voted in favor of the zoning change. Let’s hope it doesn’t “haunt” them.

Final thoughts: Boo!

Interview #69: Daly City, CA City Manager Pat Martel (with podcast)

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

Pat Martel has been working in government for over three decades and has seen a looooooooooot of council meetings. Plus, she served as president of the ICMA and got to hear from other city managers about their council concerns. We talk about how to ensure civil meetings and, if necessary, whether she would take a bullet for her council.

Q: As ICMA president, did any city managers e-mail or call you and say, “I am really struggling with my council meetings. What advice can you give?”

A: I have been asked that question. We recognized in ICMA that these are issues our members are struggling with. We have had sessions on this very issue–how to have civil meetings. There’s a need for us to solicit input [from the public], but it’s not useful input if we allow that to digress into yelling and screaming. Having the mayor understand that their role is to facilitate the discussion, but when it gets out of hand, to put a stop to that…it’s not infringing on anyone’s free speech to cut off conversation if it becomes uncivil.

Q: Mmm.

A: It’s also important for the city staff to clarify issues that the public may misunderstand. Or, worse yet, to try and identify the “fake news” on which people are basing their comments.

Q: Just for clarification, did any of the recommendations from that session include listening to the City Council Chronicles podcast?

A: [Laughs] No, but come to think of it, it should have! I have found listening very valuable.

Q: Thank you for saying that!

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Daly City, CA city manager Pat Martel

When did you accept the reality that as city manager, you are sometimes the face of unpopular proposals at council meetings?

A: I learned that a very, very long time ago. The position of city manager is a lightning rod for those who don’t agree with certain proposals. It’s not personal. Although council members and the public can make it personal. I think that oftentimes, council members who want to take me on on a particular issue see that the level of information I have exceeds what they have [and] they take it personally. My job is not to stand up to them. It’s to educate them about how things really work. I am really glad to meet with my council members before a meeting to go over things so I don’t have to present information to them in a meeting that will put them in a position where they look like they’re not very knowledgeable.

Q: In June 2014, the council was deciding whether to locate a cell tower in the city. After they voted in favor, a man rushed onto the dais and stood six inches from council members, jabbing his finger in their faces and yelling. How worried were you?

A: I was very worried. That’s one of the reasons why the police chief or one of his captains is always in attendance.

Q: If the chief was out of the room and an incident happened, would you take a bullet for your council?

A: I guess it would be my job to throw myself in front of that onslaught! While I don’t wear a badge, I have a sufficiently directive voice. I think I could probably calm someone down enough, so I would do it.


Follow City Manager Pat Martel on Twitter: @DalyCityManager

#138: Ogden, UT 10/24/17

“This is the 6 p.m. meeting,” Ogden council Chair Marcia White stated, brazenly defying the clock in front of her which read “5:59.” It’s refreshing to see someone so eager to begin a council meeting (either that or it really was six o’clock and this timepiece was spreading Fake News).

Council Vice Chair Richard Hyer scanned the audience. “It’s my pleasure,” he said, his eyes settling on a target in the crowd, “to announce that we’re going to have our Ogden/Weber Convention & Visitor’s Bureau director lead us in the pledge today.”

The randomly-selected lady rose to the occasion literally, as people stood with her and flawlessly recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Sitting back down, White grinned and shot a glance at the vice chair.

“That’s kind of mean that you put them on the spot. THAT’S when you forget the pledge!” she observed with a chuckle. “It’s like, ‘ah! I’ve said it all my life.'”

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It’s an impromptu patriotism test

Hyer defended his unorthodox method. “I didn’t ask her to sing the national anthem! I just asked her to say the pledge.” As the laughter subsided, he murmured to himself, “we should do that national anthem thing.”

Well, sir, I’m not sure where you can find the singers. But I DO know where you can find actors.

“Recognizing WNY Productions for their immense support of Ogden while filming the series ‘Youth and Consequences’ right here at Ogden High School,” Council Member Bart Blair read from a proclamation.

“We are eager to view the final cut” of the teen comedy/drama series, he added, coming to a YouTube channel near you.

“We have a little something for you, too,” one of the production team members responded.

A man pulled out a tiny plastic-wrapped notebook. “These are so you can keep track of your own stories. Maybe turn them into screenplays,” he encouraged the council. Aha–the vice chair can get a shot at his musical after all!

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“Ogden and the Amazing Technicolor Council Livestream”

Buddy, I’ll turn this entire council meeting review into a screenplay.

ENTER: SWASHBUCKLING MAYOR

All three of my daughters were extras in that. They had a 
blast.

ENTER: GIANT NINJA ROBOT

I'll show you a blast...with my laser cannon!

See, how hard is that? Oh, and the part about the mayor’s daughters being extras was real. The ninja robot? Well, you’ll have to check the tape.

“We have Halloween next week,” sighed Mayor Mike Caldwell. “I would just lobby to say I wish that was on a Friday or a Saturday.”

He smiled, picturing the ordeal that would await him after a long night of candy-harvesting. “Having young kids that get all sugared up, to have to turn them around and get them off their sugar hangover and get them back to school is kind of rough.”

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Send them to my house–I’m passing out kale and copies of The Old Testament.

Council Member Neil Garner also had a concerned message for the drivers. “Please, next Tuesday, be extremely careful. Watch out for the little trick-or-treaters.”

ENTER: GIANT NINJA ROBOT

With one hand, I shall deliver 
candy to your children. 
With the other hand, I shall 
karate chop your dangerous 
drivers. Hee-yah!

Final thoughts: Obviously, I give 50 out of 50 stars to the woman who seamlessly and confidently led the Pledge of Allegiance. May your sugar hangover be brief and mild.

#137: Maumelle, AR 10/16/17

Tragedy plus time equals comedy. But how much time is needed?

Well, if you’re the mayor of Maumelle–not a lot.

“I’ll need to let you know that Council Member [Rick] Anderson will not be here tonight. He is in the hospital,” Mayor Mike Watson blurted out at the top. Without missing a beat, he added dryly, “I think that’s a valid excuse. I don’t know if that’s what I’d pick for MY excuse. But he can do that.”

While my imagination wandered to what, exactly, the mayor might think up for his excuse, Council Member John Vaprezsan invoked Anderson’s name in the pre-meeting prayer. Pointing to the victims of wildfires, shootings, and hurricanes, he concluded ominously, “we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few minutes.”

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The mayor looks to be about 16″ from heaven.

With all this talk of death and infirmity, it was about time for some goods news. And it came from a surprising place: the bank account.

“Our financials look better this month. We’re right at budget,” an employee at the lectern gestured to a colorful graph on the wall. “The yellow is–okay, first of all….” She paused and was clearly battling mixed emotions about the yellow portion of the chart.

“I revised all these charts because somebody didn’t like the colors and I didn’t really like the colors either,” she vented to the council members, who squinted their eyes to better comprehend her predicament.

She inhaled and got back on track. “As you can see, we’ve got $5.5 million [cash on hand], so we’re well covered.”

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Yellow? All I see is green.

The mayor abruptly swiveled in his chair and reached down for a few well-covered things of his own.

“We’ve got the budgets here.” He lifted a stack of binders, sliding them down the dais. “Take the one that’s got your name on it. Don’t take somebody else’s just to be ornery,” he scolded preemptively.

“I was still making changes after lunch today.” He let out an exhausted chuckle. “It’s not an excuse, but I’ve looked at it so much, it’s hard to catch mistakes in it now.”

Mayor, if you need someone to proofread the budget–and clandestinely add some puns and emoji–send it to me. My fee is a tiny $5.5 million in cash on hand.

Council Member Steve Mosley leaned forward like an intrigued professor who just thought of a reason to reference some fascinating new research. “I don’t know how many folks saw–this doesn’t have anything to do with us.”

He opened a newspaper. “It talks about Farmington, Arkansas. They recently found that they had some embezzlement going on for $1.5 million over seven years. He was basically taking money home. All they noticed was that traffic ticket revenue had gone down.”

He folded the paper and let the damning accusation settle in.

“Things can happen. So everybody has to stay alert.”

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One more reason for me to look over your budget!

Not to be outdone in the field of literacy, Council Member Vaprezsan gestured to his own magazine.

“I got the City & Town. If you haven’t had the chance to look at it, it’s pretty neat.” Not at all subtly, Council Member Jess Holt reached across and snatched the publication.

“Council Member Holt’s picture is ALSO in the magazine,” noted Vaprezsan as Holt flipped through it with fixation.

“So is Council Member [G.K.] Timmons and City Clerk Tina Timmons!” exclaimed Holt.

Whew! Maumelle made the news without a scandal.

#136: Berkley, MI 10/16/17

No sooner had the cameras turned on than Mayor Pro Tem Steve Baker made an aggressive opening bid.

“I’d like to suggest that we move the ‘communications’ before the closed session. So that as we move into closed session, we can just adjourn–” he gazed to the audience with hands outstretched “–without holding these folks here all night.”

Multiple council members simultaneously assented. “Seconded by several people all at the same time,” Mayor Phil O’Dwyer observed dryly.

Speaking of the audience, a substantial number of chairs were filled–and for good reason. Tonight, there was a LOT the good people of Berkley needed to get off their chests and on the record.

“I’m a physician. I come today not with my physician hat on,” a balding man with glasses but no hat whatsoever introduced himself, “but my president’s hat for the Berkley Rotary Club. Every year we have an annual pancake breakfast.”

He brandished a colorful poster. “I’m leaving some flyers. I did not bring any tickets to sell.”

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Yum.

However, I quickly realized what he was “selling” was indeed not pancakes, but rather the very existence of the Rotary itself.

“I’m concerned that our club may be going away,” the man frowned and looked from face to face. “We normally have about 25 members. Every year it’s been dwindling. People move. People retire. People die.”

A woman behind him stroked her chin. A man in a white moustache looked stricken. The speaker continued:

“We’re down to six members, which is a pretty sad state. In the past from Berkley, we’ve had city managers, we’ve had police chiefs, we’ve had librarians. We really have no members representing the city.”

He stood rigidly and delivered the heartbreaking news directly at the mayor. “If we don’t have a successful pancake breakfast, the six members are going to go away. So I’m pleading with the city that we can get some representation in our club.”

Whoa. Normally, people come in to ask city councils for money or services. In this case, he just needs somebody–anybody–to show up. This isn’t some obscure quilting club; it’s the Rotary. If it falls, who will look after the city? The Neighborhood Garden Coalition?

I don’t think so, mayor.

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His message of “our death will be on your hands” isn’t exactly an uplifting call to action.

Whatever the fate of Rotary, his cry for help resonated with the next commenter–the man with the moustache–who was listening closely.

“Proud citizen of Berkley,” was his gruff identification. “We need more citizens to step up. Volunteer. Such as the Rotary Club. The Parade Committee. The Beautification Committee.”

He kept it to all of 30 seconds. “Step up and help. Thank you.”

As if some invisible composer had orchestrated the whole thing, the next woman was spearheading the aforementioned Holiday Parade Committee. And I’ll give you one guess at what the Committee needs:

“Like everybody else, we’re looking for volunteers to help us on our parade staff,” she announced. “We would like to extend an invitation to our mayor and city council when Santa Claus will be given the key to the city.”

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Who needs keys when you use chimneys?

“You are assuring us tonight,” interjected Mayor O’Dwyer in his authentic Irish brogue, “that Santa Claus will be there?”

“Absolutely,” she nodded solemnly. “We’ve gotten word from the North Pole that he will be coming down Twelve Mile and he’ll be greeting all the little children–and adults.”

Have him stop by the Rotary afterward!

#135: Springdale, AR 10/10/17

“Before we proceed,” Council Member Kathy Jaycox stopped the meeting cold in its tracks, “could we recognize some guests in the audience? They’re here because they are trying to earn badges.”

Mayor Doug Sprouse relaxed. “Sure. Would somebody like to tell us who’s here?”

The Boy Scout troop leader stepped to the microphone and ordered his young charges to their feet. “Gentlemen, if you’d like to stand. They’re working on their communication merit badge.”

“Okay,” the mayor replied, doing a little drumroll on his desk and smiling. “I don’t know how much communication you’ll learn from THIS bunch, but we’ll try!”

As soon as the Scouts settled back in their seats, the council took up the titillating issue of an emergency replat of the Sunset Industrial Park Phase II subdivision. Things went smoothly on the first roll call vote. But suddenly, the staffer at the lectern barreled ahead without warning.

“The next item is a–” she announced, before the mayor halted her for a necessary second vote.

“I’m just in a hurry!” she chuckled as the next roll call rolled on. “I’m doing my part to make it short!”

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Communications lesson: keep it short, but wait until people are done voting.

Now, under normal circumstances, updating personnel policies is hardly a mouth-watering affair. But today? Let’s just say: don’t judge a book by its heavily-tattooed cover.

“So, if someone’s trying to apply for a position,” Council Member Colby Fulfer mused, “we can still use discretion based on someone’s physical appearances or sources of income that could be questionable? Could we discriminate?”

“It depends,” replied Mayor Sprouse matter-of-factly. “We do have positions where we can have those requirements. They would be the obvious ones like personal appearance.”

Council Member Mike Overton threw up his hand and grumbled, “not in all departments can we have people looking at Jo-Jo the tattooed man!”

Wow. I would be more worried that a grown man chooses to go by “Jo-Jo” than the fact he has tattoos.

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I associate myself with these reactions.

At this point, Mayor Sprouse, who had apparently been sitting on a powerkeg of exciting news all meeting, finally lit the fuse. “As we’re looking at possible fire stations with a bond issue, I would really like to go look at one,” he prefaced.

“The best one sounds like it’s in the Kansas City area. I think it would be great to go up there and look at that.”

Field trip! I love car rides. Which brings up an important question: I am invited, right?

“We’ll just go when the most people can go,” Sprouse glanced around. “I know that the press will be invited.”

That’s me, baby! If the mayor is a man of his word, City Council Chronicles will happily ride shotgun on the party bus.

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Real talk: I’ll only go if the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette isn’t invited. 

“We would leave 7:30, 8 in the morning,” he continued, diminishing my interest slightly in this excursion. Immediately, crosstalk ensued as council members simultaneously tossed out their availability.

“What about the 23rd?” hollered one voice. As the mayor scanned his schedule, other council members nodded in agreement.

“I’ll have to cancel a couple of meetings, but I can move those,” the mayor assented.

“What could be more important than being with the council, mayor?!” Council Member Overton joked. The mayor pursed his lips and bobbed his head without further reply.

Final thoughts: I’ll see you guys on the 23rd.