#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.

#104: Columbus, OH 5/15/17

First impressions were VERY strong at the Columbus city council. No sooner had people risen to face the flag than a thundering orchestral rendition of the Star Spangled Banner blasted over the loudspeakers.

Council members stood at attention while the camera panned across the room. As the trumpeting ceased, onlookers were aided in the Pledge of Allegiance by a beautiful tapestry embroidered with the oath.

Talk about class, folks!

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It’s like a g–d– Norman Rockwell painting.

After this patriotic tour de force, Council Member Jaiza Page rattled off her own tour de fitness. “If I’m out there” on Bike to Work Day, she smiled self-deprecatingly, “you’ll probably see me last in line.”

She added, to chuckles, “just don’t run me over!”

More impressively, Councilmember Page revealed that daring Columbusites would soon be allowed to rapel 19 stories off the PNC Building–not for infamy, but rather for a fundraiser for sexual trafficking victims.

“I did go over the edge last year and I was thoroughly frightened for 20 minutes,” she admitted with no trace of anxiety. “But I would encourage those of you who are not interested in rapelling yourself to go out and just cheer the rapellers on.”

Yes, and also be sure to cheer on Page as she bikes, rapels, canoes, bobsleds, and hanglides her way to the title of “Most Adventurous Council Member.”

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“I got to this meeting via luge.”

By all accounts, things were going swimmingly. (Council Member Page will probably be swimming for charity at some point, too.) Suddenly, after Councilmember Michael Stinziano smoothly moved $1.2 million to repair the city’s sewer pipes, President Pro Tem Priscilla Tyson stared down at her paperwork.

“We have several non-agenda speakers that we will take momentarily.” She glanced at the clock. “We will reconvene at 6:30 for zoning.”

With that, the screen faded to black.

A slow horror dawned on me: she had turned off the cameras for public comment.

I wanted to scream, but I realized that even if she were rapelling off the outside of the PNC Building, President Pro Tem Tyson probably would not hear me.

Within seconds, the council chamber faded back in. The time was now 6:30 and the room was substantially emptier.

“Regular meeting number 26 will now come to order,” Tyson cheerfully announced like Richard Nixon after he erased those 18-and-a-half minutes of tape.

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I expected this kind of behavior from Cleveland. But COLUMBUS???

We may never know what was said in public comment that day. All we know is that the zoning hearing was much, much more tedious.

“To grant a variance from the provisions of Sections 3332.039, R-4 residential district; 3321.05(B)(2), vision clearance; 3321.07(B), landscaping; 3332.25(B), maximum side yards required; 3332.26,(C)(3), minimum side yard permitted,” Council Member Page read for nearly a minute off of the numbers-heavy ordinance.

“This is a very interesting situation,” a neatly-dressed white-haired man said as he stood eager to explain the nuances of zoning. “We have a building that covers close to 100 percent of the parcel that doesn’t comply with the zoning district or the university planning overlay.”

Yes, quite thrilling. You know what else would be an interesting situation? SEEING THE PUBLIC COMMENT.

What a shame that a council meeting with such high production quality should fumble this basic feature.

Final thoughts: While the V.I.P. here is clearly Council Member Page for doing “Fear Factor: Columbus,” the capital city’s lack of 100% transparency forces me to give this meeting only 2 out of 5 buckeyes.

#68: Garden City, MI 11/21/16

Three days before Thanksgiving, the Garden City council was ablaze in festivity. I don’t know if everyone was hopped up on cranberry sauce or had been mainlining gravy in the bathroom, but city council members were chomping like Santa’s reindeer to do the People’s Business.

And it all kicked off with this electrifying audiovisual overload for the National Anthem, complete with a booming choir and tear-jerking stock footage:

What’s even more American than a waving flag? How about a waving Santa:

“I wanted to remind everybody that immediately following the Santaland Parade this Saturday, we will have Santa down at the old farmers market,” the city’s downtown development director reminded all the good little girls and boys.

“We will have cookies and hot chocolate for everybody and I believe the mayor will also be handing Santa the key to the city.” Hold the phone, mayor. Don’t you know how Santa works? He doesn’t NEED a key–he just slides down the chimney at city hall. DUH.

And speaking of sliding, a lady from the county commissioner’s office was all smiles about her own early Christmas present: a shiny new road.

“It’s looking GOOD!” she marveled. “I don’t know if you’ve been down on Cherry Hill Road but it is smooth as a whistle! They were working like ants. I’m like, WHOA!”

As a whistle! That is impressive! Most roads I’ve ridden on are smooth as a bumpy graham cracker. Clearly some deal with the devil was made here to get a whistle-smooth piece of turnpike.

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“This road is slicker than a stick of butter in a microwave.”

However, the city council meeting was about careen through some deep potholes. And like most headaches, it started when the mayor opened up public comment on a contract to purchase discounted gasoline.

“How much money?!” shouted an elderly man in a neon safety vest as he hunched menacingly behind the podium.

“We’re getting it for 98 cents a gallon,” Mayor Randy Walker patiently explained.

“HUH?!” the man screamed.

“Gasoline for the police cars, fire trucks,” the mayor raised his own voice.

“BP has it $1.98!” the man slurred in disbelief.

“We get it cheaper. They don’t have to put all the taxes on it,” Mayor Walker reassured his accuser. “That’s a pretty good deal. I’ll take that.”

The elderly man, satisfied that Santa Claus wasn’t pulling a fast one on the taxpayers, turned and sat down.

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Why is everyone else not wearing their protective safety gear?!

Next, it was Mayor Pro Tem Pat Squires’s turn to talk turkey. Clad in a pink “Santaland Parade” hoodie, she read from her notes. “I move to purchase an aerial lift truck from Wolverine Freightliner. Our old one is 26 years old and it is not able to be used anymore according to the state of Michigan.”

Well, that didn’t sit right with Mr. Vesty McYellington, who immediately shuffled to the podium.

“You can fix it up!”

Mayor Walker was insistent. “It’s 26 years old. We gotta get a new one!”

“Why buy a new one?! Fix it up! It’s my money! My tax dollars!” raspily bellowed this modern-day Scrooge.

But the mayor had made his list and checked it twice. “Oh-kay,” he sighed. Then the council voted: Garden City was getting a new truck under the tree.

Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to Santa for delivering a smooth road, new truck, and amazing gas prices to Garden City. See you at the parade!