#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!

#70: Lisbon, IA 11/28/16

Don’t be fooled. Lisbon’s population may be just 2,200 people–but its December calendar is packed tighter than a Tokyo subway car at rush hour.

“Holiday Jubilee proclamation,” Mayor Beryl O’Connor adjusted her eyeglasses and read the sweeping decree. “Whereas holiday celebration is an effective tool for fostering local pride and maintaining community character, I, Mayor of Lisbon, proclaim December 10, 2016 ‘Lisbon’s Holiday Jubilee’ and call upon the people of Lisbon to join their fellow citizens in participating in this special occasion.”

Harken, Lisbonites! Your leader calls upon you to spread cheerfulness maximus! (What exactly does that entail?)

“We’ll be having activities during the day starting out with breakfast with Mrs. Claus,” city administrator Connie Meier explained. “The parade lineup will start at four. This year we changed the theme to ‘Parade with Your Pets.’ So you can dress your pets up in Christmas sweaters and walk them in the parade.”

With this news, my heart grew three sizes. Granted, this is Iowa, so I imagine there will be several cows in festive XXL upperwear.

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Pictured: Director of the Lisbon Chamber of Commerce

“Next month is kind of a busy month,” warned the city administrator. “Lisbon Schools is having all of their concerts on Monday night. December 12 would be our next regular council meeting–there is an elementary K-3rd [concert] at 6:00 and [grades] 4-6 at 7:15. On December 19th, there’s also the high school band and choir concerts.”

Uh-oh. Is it time to take the missiles to DEFCON-2, Your Honor?

“Is your daughter in band or anything?” the mayor muttered to Council Member Nathan Smith.

“The 19th is out for me,” he winced. “And she’s in basketball, so Tuesday nights tend to be interrupted too.”

Thankfully, the crisis was defused: they agreed to double up the meetings on December 5.

“What’s wrong with the lights?” Mayor O’Connor spontaneously blurted out. “One side of the street comes on and five minutes later the other side of the street comes on!”

“It’s where the photo eyes are placed–” the public works director started to answer.

“I have no idea what that means,” the mayor stared blankly.

The director patiently explained this complex marvel of modern engineering. “The photo eyes are detecting the sunlight. When the sun’s coming across, it will still be shining on one photo eye and there will be enough shade on the other one that it’ll keep ’em on.”

“It’s called photo eye?” she cautiously inquired. “If I tell somebody that, they’ll think I know what I’m talking about?”

The public works director humored her. “Yep.”

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This picture was taken with a photo eye

While he had the floor, there was something else he needed to get off his chest for the good of the city:

“This it the second time in twelve months we’ve had problems with our spiral screen” at the wastewater plant. (Mayor, if you say “spiral screen” people will NOT know what you’re talking about.)

“I know everybody’s reading these wrappers, and their sanitary wipes and wet wipes are saying they can be flushed. Please, [I’m] asking people not to flush.”

He exhaled. “So yeah, that’s my little soapbox speech.”

Final thoughts: Stop flushing the wet wipes! Geez.

#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!

#65: Lawrenceburg, TN 11/10/16

Small-town charm was on full display at the Lawrenceburg city council meeting. From the Mayberry-like feeling in the room, you’d barely know that the country was in turmoil outside of city hall.

“We’ll be closed tomorrow for Veterans Day. The parade starts at 11 o’clock,” solemnly announced Mayor Keith Durham. “So guys, if you wanna ride with my dad, he’s got his truck ready to go.”

Wow, an official councilmobile! Crank up the bass and fasten on the truck nuts, boys! Oh, but bring a Snuggie, says Hizzoner:

“You’re welcome to ride with us in the back of the truck. It may be a little chilly. But we’ll have lawn chairs.”

It’s how Caligula would have traveled if his dad owned a truck.

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Seat belts not included

“Next, gentlemen: a resolution for the city of Lawrenceburg to reappoint Gary Hyde as the representative to the Regional Solid Waste Planning Board,” the council’s reader said.

The mayor scratched his nose and glanced at Hyde across the room. “Are you okay with that, Gary?”

“Yes, sir,” the man responded stiffly.

“We have appointed people without their permission, you know,” the mayor explained to chuckles.

Your Honor, feel free to appoint me to anything you want without my consent. Solid Waste…Liquid Waste…Human Waste…I would be proud to represent your city at the waste level.

“Next, gentlemen: a resolution to approve the purchase of a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab from Mike James for the use of Lawrenceburg Parks and Recreation Department. Purhase price is $10,500.”

Council Member Jamie Sevier stopped writing and looked up. “How’d this deal come up, Chris?”

Chris Shaffer, the city administrator, elaborated: “This was approved in the budget to replace the old black van that Parks and Recreation uses. Pam looked at this vehicle and felt it was a good deal.”

“I know Mike was asking $13.5, Pam?” Council Member Ronald Fox inquired.

“Yes, sir,” Pam called out.

“And they talked him down from $13.5 to $10.5 so I believe it’s a pretty good deal,” he nodded at Pam’s negotiating expertise. “It looked like a pretty good truck.”

Mayor Durham frowned. “Are you going to sell the ‘mystery machine’ as a result?”

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File photo of the Parks and Recreation director

The city administrator grinned. “We’re gonna try to.”

“Might save it for Halloween!” Council Member Fox quipped.

Or perhaps the next parade. I’m sure you could fit lawn chairs and four councilmen inside–and Papa Durham could use his truck bed for less fleshy cargo.

“All right. If you’re in favor of this, let me know by saying aye,” the mayor boomed. Everyone was an “aye.”

But Fox was already waxing nostalgic for the van. “Mayor, maybe they can paint this pickup black!”

Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to Pam for knocking $3k off the asking price. She should be allowed to ride in the truck with you guys.