#109: Saginaw, MI 6/5/17

Somebody, put up the balloons and the streamers! At the Saginaw city council meeting, we’ve got birthdays in the house.

“It is my honor to give this proclamation,” grinned Mayor Pro Tem Floyd Kloc as three stocky gentlemen from the Kiwanis Club clustered at the podium. “I’m also a member, so it’s quite special to me!”

“Be it resolved,” he read, that the city “does extend this expression of gratitude to the Kiwanis Club of Saginaw for their service over the past 100 years.”

A proud centenarian stepped forward. “One of our signature projects is buying dictionaries for all the third graders in Saginaw public schools. Last year we bought 386 dictionaries, I believe.”

Dictionaries? As in, old-fashioned autocorrect? Classy move.

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More importantly: are you buying the children Snapchat filters and fidget spinners?

The Kiwanis may have been turning 100, but I hope they know how to respect their elders–because an even¬†more senior group was also blowing out candles.

“I represent the Plumbers & Steamfitters Union, Local 85. We turned 125 years old on May 1,” a significantly younger man informed the council.

“I am a little partial to Local 85,” admitted Council Member Michael Balls coyly. “My son attained his journeyman card through the plumbers union and he lives in a big beautiful home with a three-car garage and stuff like that.”

Balls nodded with the satisfaction of a proud dad. “It’s been real rewarding to him.”

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“However, if my Father’s Day present this year isn’t a Porsche, I will disown him.”

As it turned out, Saginaw was about to witness another son do right by his dad.

But the circumstances were anything but cheerful.

“Proclamation in memory of Brent R. Smith, whose rich and abundant life came to a close on March 3, 2017,” read Mayor Pro Tem Kloc, standing to shake hands with a long line of bereaved family members.

The bespectacled teenage son then stepped up to the microphone.

“I’d much rather have my dad up here receiving this honor,” he said while family members folded their arms behind him.

“He was greatly influenced by his grandpa. They were best friends and they’re most likely hanging out right now as I speak.”

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“All of his hope and trust was in Jesus Christ,” he continued quickly, so as to avoid becoming too emotional. “He and my mom raised the three of us kids to be god-fearing Christians as well.”

While the audience stared silently at the floor, the boy punctuated his eulogy with plainspoken Midwestern piety:

“My dad did so much for so many people. There’s one thing that we know for sure in all of this: when my dad was standing before god, he heard the words, ‘well done, good and faithful servant.'”

From the back row, a slow clap began. Council Member Brenda Moore slapped the table and stared kindly at the Smith daughter.

“I came in with the young lady and I told her she was so beautiful. You are beautiful,” she repeated in a grandmotherly tone.

“And thank you so much–mom, family–for sharing your husband with the city of Saginaw.”

Then, ending the council meeting on a note of good fortune, she revealed: “I hope that you start to enjoy the sunny weather. I’m actually gonna plant a garden this year with the help of my friends. We’re gonna plant a garden!”

And with that, the cycle of life, death, and birth was complete in the span of a single city council meeting.

#87: Coralville, IA 2/14/17

Love was in the air at the Coralville Valentine’s Day city council meeting! It was a momentous night: the city had finally asked a new police chief to¬†tie the knot. And he said, “I do.”

“A very prestigious, memorable item on our agenda,” Mayor John Lundell flashed a big grin. “I would start by entertaining a motion to approve the appointment of Shane Kron as our police chief.”

The council members were so giddy, they trampled over each other to agree. “So moved!” a couple of them shouted out.

Mayor Lundell chuckled. “We have an outstanding police department in Coralville. Our outgoing chief, Barry Bedford–he’s been part of the department for 43 years. But also, 16 of those years, Shane Kron was a member of the department.”

City administrator Kelly Hayworth gently broke in. “It’s longer than 16. I believe it’s 27.”

Realizing he was WELL outside the margin of error, the mayor blurted sheepishly,¬†“Oh, I’m sorry!”

Your honor, take it from me: before you commit to a new beau, you should know their WHOLE relationship history!

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“Mayor, this paper just says, ‘do u like me? yes, no, maybe’.”

Also, don’t say weird things about them. Like this:

“All four candidates were cream. But the cream rose above the cream to the top. And here he is, and is our new chief,” rhapsodized Council Member Bill Hoeft in a stilted Maya-Angelou-of-the-Midwest rhythm.

After the chief was sworn in, the mayor caused a few disheartened chuckles when he announced, “now on to the exciting next item: the budget!”

Hey, hey, don’t be so facetious, mayor. There was plenty of good news for C-ville: property taxes were unchanged for the eighth consecutive year! The water plant is getting a brand new filter building! And corn has never been yellower!

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Nice chart

A man in a striped shirt and red tie sprung to the podium and signed the guest register. He had prepared a wide-ranging soliloquy about the budget, the city council, and his…um, unique hobbies.

“As always, I have reviewed the budget,” he said. “I kind of live the budget. I’m a gym rat for budgeting, if you will.”

I will. Go on.

“I¬†would ask, how’s your own checkbook? You don’t have to answer that, but you’re dealing with your money at home and your money down here, so they should both be in pretty good shape.”

You’re losing me, citizen. I don’t think anyone’s going to whip out their checkbooks, so how about we close strong?

“Think about this: if you shower quicker, you would save yourself some money. And anytime you see someone watering their lawn, send them a thank-you card because they’ll be using all that water and spend a lot more money than you will if you shower,” he proclaimed like Columbo cracking the case.

The council members took a second to digest this insider tip.

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“Now, here’s a little trick about sewage treatment–“

“Thank you for caring” about the budget, Council Member Laurie Goodrich offered¬†politely.

As council members gathered up their papers, the city attorney had a piece of news to share that he had evidently been sitting on for 45 minutes.

“The city attorney’s office approves the appointment of Shane. Also, I can’t help but notice that we don’t have to worry about him tearing his hair out over anything!”

Everyone let out a snicker¬†at the shiny-domed chief. I’m sure he can look forward to maaannnnany more years of jokes like that.

#80: Moore, OK 1/17/17

I often¬†hear from people around the globe¬†who say, “we don’t want¬†fewer Oklahoma city council meeting reviews. We want¬†Moore.”

Well, my thirsty friends, it’s your lucky day.

The inauguration may be 1,300 miles away, but the Moore city council was twerking to a different type of party.

“Mayor and council, this is our annual renewal of the fireworks contract,” a bespectacled staffer braced himself on the podium. The price tag was steep: $49,500.

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Trivia: this meeting was filmed with the original Zapruder camera.

But, he vouched, “they provide an excellent show. This is our premier event that we do.”

Mayor Glenn Lewis raised his eyebrows out of sticker shock. “How does this compare to how much other cities spend?”

The man cleared his throat. “We’re at or near the top when it comes to fireworks expense. Mayor, we feel that the show we put on–the event really is a great event. We think we get the most bang for our buck.”

Or the biggest boom, as it were. But hey, I report and you decide. This is what $49-large of fireworks looks like:

“And how many people would you say come out?” quizzed¬†Council Member Melissa Hunt.

“We think 20,000-30,000 people view the show,” the staffer guessed. Wow! For comparison, only two cats and a bottle of Colt 45¬†viewed MY illegal backyard fireworks show.

Council Member Adam Webb was all-in on the pyrotechnics. “I love this event. I don’t feel like Moore has a lot that we’re known for.”

Council Member, don’t be ridiculous! The Moore Oil & Lube and the R&S Gun Supply are some of the finest establishments in the Lower 48! You were saying?

“Last year, I showed the mayor and some other council members chatter on Instagram, Twitter, and social media–people have come to Moore and enjoyed this.”

Mayor Lewis leaned forward to seal the deal. “The show’s always good to me,” he offered. “I remember when they used to pass a bucket to pay for $2,000 worth of firecrackers.”

“That being said–” he winced as heads swiveled and I held my breath, “several people seemed to be upset about it. Is there anybody here that would like to speak on this?”

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“SHOW YOURSELVES, TRAITORS.”

The room was quiet as His Honor scanned the auditorium. The fate of our nation’s birthday was hanging in the balance.

“Okay, if you didn’t show up to complain,” he said with a smirk, “don’t complain anymore.”

Everyone exhaled as the council approved the fireworks show.

But to make the Fourth of July a little more festive, there was one other tiny gift from the village elders to the masses:

“Ordinance number 844-17, establishing a beer and wine license,” the mayor read from his notes.

An employee in a baggy suit explained the highly technical logic. “The licenses the city has now is: one for beer and one for mixed beverages. This would be in between. Restaurants could sell beer AND¬†wine and choose not to pay the higher fee.”

The council swiftly okayed¬†the new license–a great boon to Midwesterners who like their beer like they like their wine: in the same place.

Final thoughts: What this meeting lacked in sizzle, it made up for in patriotism. I give it 8 out of 10 sparkler sticks.

#77: Hutchinson, KS 1/3/17

Folks, 2017 will be a year of uncertainty. Fear. Turmoil.

But all of that faded away when the mustachioed man in the camo-sleeve pullover strode to the Hutchinson city council microphone.

You could tell: he was here to Make Hutchinson Great Again.

“I’m sure you’ve all received my petition in the mail. I’m here to formally represent that petition,” he intoned with a deep, reassuring voice. All signs pointed to this guy having some major grievance with the city council–but honestly, I could listen to him narrate movie trailers all day. His voice was that¬†soothing.

But I’m sorry, you were saying something about tyranny?

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. And the government role is to protect our rights, not to find exceptions,” he murmured, like some sort of Ken Burns documentary.

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He has two guns in those sleeves and 25 in the bunker.

“Your opinion is your theology, and any opinion contrary to the fact I set forth is¬†contrary to our basis of governance. That is why I am requesting repeal of the tax for the support of the sports arena. We’d like to see the city council repeal all ordinances that are destructive of the life, liberty, property, and prosperity of the people of Hutchinson.”

There was a dramatic pause as the John Williams musical score in my head stopped playing.

“Thank you. We appreciate it,” Mayor Jon Daveline casually replied. Then, cheerfully, “next item, please!”

The city attorney leaned forward in his chair, giving the audience an exclusive view of the hyper-expressive sign language translator.

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Love. Her.

“There was a bill passed by the Kansas legislature moving elections to the fall–and requiring an extension of your terms,” he announced. As a smirk spread across his lips, he added, “so let me be the first to thank you for your additional months of service!”

Everyone laughed, perhaps a bit TOO hard.

“This extends your terms from April of this year to January 2018,” he elaborated. “For those whose terms would¬†have expired not in 2017 but in 2019, your terms are extended to 2020.”

Not everybody was elated.

“I mean, they [the voters] might want us out in April and we’re here for another¬†eight months,” Councilmember Jade Piros de Caravalho¬†observed with a mournful chuckle.

“So…the changing of the guard will not occur until WHEN?!” exclaimed the mayor half-jokingly.

“You’re stuck!” Councilmember Nancy Soldner clucked.

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Lock the doors.

At this point, Camo Sleeves jumped uninvited back up to the mic. Cue the music from Braveheart.

“The city does retain the right to stand up and say we will not comply with any law the state comes out with,” he urged them defiantly. “You do have that right. You don’t have to comply with their laws.”

Mayor Daveline shifted uncomfortably, no doubt realizing that the Civil War started over something similar to this. “We’re…gonna take the advice of our city attorney here–”

“The law is often the rule of tyrants,” Camo said firmly. “That’s just the way it is.”

The color had drained from the city attorney’s face. “Uh…the authority that a city has is granted to it by the state of Kansas. If they didn’t grant us the authority…we couldn’t exist.”

Final thoughts: It’s a tough call…they didn’t stand up to tyranny. But they¬†did avoid an inter-governmental apocalypse. I give these council members 8 out of 10 camo-sleeve pullovers.

#30: Lincoln, NE 6/20/16

Sometimes Nebraska lives up to its reputation as “the interesting man’s Kansas.”

But sadly, this week the Cornhuskers on the Lincoln city council were focused 100 percent on the soul-crushing, time-dragging nuts and bolts of the People’s Business.

“Can you please tell us about your application?” Vice Chair¬†Leirion Gaylor Baird smiled at¬†the nervous Middle Eastern man wanting¬†a liquor license.

“I just applied…for selling beer for my restaurants. I’m trying to sell only beer.”

Silence.

“So…this is an existing business?” Councilman Carl Eskridge probed.

“Yes. I’m trying to sell just beer.”

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He is also¬†the University of Nebraska’s intramural basketball coach, apparently.

But Councilman Roy Christensen had some bad news for this shifty-eyed beer slinger.

“I’m going to vote to disapprove your application,” the councilman kindly but firmly informed the sweaty applicant.¬†“I don’t want you to take this personally.”

As mild as this exchange was, it was nothing compared to the coma-inducing Q&A between Councilman Jon Camp and the city’s pension officer.

JC: Considering the assumed rate of return is 7.5 percent or 6.4 percent…but really that 3.23 percent is before you’ve had those distributions.

PO: The 3.2 starts with the beginning value and recognizes all the tax receipts and how the values of the underlying asset change in terms of the income we receive from dividends and interest.

JC: It would appear on the investments that we only made $2.4 million when you take dividend, realized gains, and you subtract the losses.

PO: The investment earnings, if you factor all that in, is 3.23 perce–

Holy mother, I’m going to stop here. Not only was this incredibly dry, but they were the two most monotone, low-voiced people I’ve seen outside of a librarians’ convention.

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Before Councilman Jon Camp started talking, his hair was jet black.

Suddenly–mercifully–in the home stretch, we saw some action in the outfield.

“I¬†would move to delay a vote” on the storm water plan, Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm beseeched her colleagues, “until July 11.”

But Councilwoman Jane Raybould made it clear: De-lay? No way!

“I am not going to support the motion because we heard loud and¬†clear from our voters. To say that we’re not going forward with those projects when the voters vote in affirmation of these projects is sort of disingenuous.”

Tempers flared. Knuckles cracked. A vote was taken on a delay. The tally?

3-3. A tie.

“Uh, so,” Vice Chair Gaylor Baird fumbled, “the motion fails on a tie?”

“Any vote of the city council requires four votes to pass,” Councilman Christensen nodded.

Then, a move no one saw coming:

“I would be willing to vote,” piped up Councilman Eskridge, who originally voted AGAINST a delay, “in such a way that it WOULD be delayed.” The Midwestern Benedict Arnold sheepishly avoided eye contact with everyone but the floor.

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“Lol, j/k guys. I wanted to vote the other way all along.”

Cross-talk ensued. Lawyers were summoned. Fast-thinking Councilman Camp swooped in to finish her. “I move we delay this to July 11.”

The do-over vote was done-over. Result? 5-1.

A fuming Councilwoman Raybould silently rested her chin on her fists, thwarted by one rascally traitor.

Final thoughts:¬†I gotta hand it to Councilman Jon Camp. He lulled us almost to sleep before surprising us with a quick-draw vote. I give him 3.23 percent…or 7.5 percent–wait, or

#22: Fort Wayne, IN 5/24/16

A group of nine men can do two things: (1) field a baseball team or (2) conduct¬†the People’s Business.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, because this week, the¬†Fort Wayne city council played a double-header–a committee meeting AND¬†council meeting in the same night. Pitching for the home team was Councilman Glynn Hines.

“Is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak in favor of or in opposition to resolution 16-05-04?” he hollered, scanning the bleachers.

“Second call.” (A swing!)

“Third and final call.” (And a miss! No takers.)

Representing the visiting team was¬†a lady from the Ward Corporation. Resolution 16-05-04 was to give her family’s company some tax relief. “We’ve been in business for 52 years,” she explained, brandishing¬†a picture of her relatives.

“Is that Vern?” Councilman Hines squinted.¬†“I played golf with Vern.”

“I actually don’t think that you should have to pay taxes on this property,” Councilman Jason Arp confessed. “I don’t think anybody should have to pay taxes on business personal property.” But before this modern-day Ayn Rand could hit a home run against taxes, he added: “But¬†I’m gonna vote against it because not everyone gets it.”

Despite his “nay,” the rest of the team¬†approved¬†Ward Corp.’s tax relief.

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Your disgruntled libertarian stepdad, Jason Arp

What happened next was truly bizarre: an apology. From the chamber of commerce. For¬†threats. “With regards to the potential intimidation of elected officials, our board was most troubled by this,” their balding representative read from a statement. “If any of you ever felt that there was intimidation, it is no one’s intent. We will at no time use our position as chamber of commerce to threaten electoral retaliation.”

Whose feet did they threaten to put in cement? Whose home did they promise¬†to cut the gas line? “Nice little city council you got here. It’d be a shame if someone were to drag a key across it!”

“I think the conflict was: when you have a project, you’re often very passionate,” Councilman John Crawford murmured carefully. “Some of the advocacy before was like…it was a little too far.”

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Please don’t kill this nice councilman’s puppy.

Heading into Game 2, the councilmen jogged to a new room. Now in the luxurious¬†council chambers, a man in knee-high socks and a yellow “FORT WAYNE” t-shirt stepped to the mic.

“Gentlemen, I’m gonna tell you something: Sunday morning, I felt like dying because the noise was so great. They were shooting fireworks off.

“They’re four men [who] live there, four women that live there, and a whole pack of kids,” he explained. “They’re all Mexicans, as far as I’m concerned.”

Channeling his inner Donald Trump, he concluded, “we don’t need something like this in Fort Wayne. We need to clean up this town. Gentlemen, have a great evening, and the lord bless all of you.”

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This man merely wants peace, quiet, and deportations.

Steering far away from the crucial matter¬†of cleaning up the Mexicans, Council President Thomas Didier gave a mini-pep talk. “Fireworks are gonna start happening. Fireworks for Memorial Day. Fireworks for Fourth of July. It’s all the holidays…New Year’s Eve. I’m just forewarning you now.”

Final thoughts: If you’re going to be in Fort Wayne between Memorial Day and New Year’s Eve, you might want to bring some earplugs. At least, around the Mexicans.¬†