#105: Madison, IN 5/16/17

You would think that after 104 city council meetings, I’d have seen pretty much everything.

You would be wrong.

“Six students from Mr. Barger’s government class have been with council members today,” Mayor Damon Welch explained to onlookers curious about the half-dozen teens occupying the dais. “Tonight they will be participating in our council meeting.”

His young shadow mayor stood awkwardly beside him. “Whereas, seniors from Madison Consolidated High School–and actually one junior, by the way–” Mayor Welch bragged, jabbing a thumb toward his own protégé, “–learned about local government, I proclaim today Student Government Day.”

Like a driver’s ed instructor passing the keys, Welch then said, “without further ado, I’ll turn over the meeting to our Student Mayor, Clate Winters.”

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Buckle up, folks

Clate flipped over his notes and fidgeted with the microphone. Mayor Welch pointed with his pencil and whispered something.

“Mr. Clerk Treasurer, would you please call the roll?” inquired the Student Mayor hesitantly.

One by one, council members yelled “here!” from the wall behind their normal seats.

“Have you had the opportunity to review the minutes?” Clate read from his script, so nervous that he pronounced “minutes” as min-OOTS. “Is there a motion to approve the minutes?”

A great deal of whispering commenced at the dais. “Say aye!” council members hissed to their fill-ins.  With some giggling, the minutes were approved.

The Student Mayor gestured to Student Council Member Casey Williams. “Thank you, Mr. Mayor,” Casey smoothly transitioned. “July 8 shall be known as Student Day. High school and college students will be given free admission to Crystal Beach Swimming Pool.”

“Nyla, you did speak a lot this afternoon about this,” eagerly interjected Mayor Welch. “Share some thoughts.”

The girl on the end chuckled anxiously. “We wanted the students to have…something to do, I guess!” She looked around for help.

Casey picked up the mic and launched into a confident explanation. “We wanted to present an opportunity that kept the student body active, but allowed them to exist outside.”

Nice job on the assist, Council Member Williams.

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Little crowded

The Student Mayor flipped over his notes again. “Is there a motion to applause?” Welch tapped him on the shoulder. “Approve!” he corrected himself.

The audience was already applauding good-naturedly. But Clate recovered and casually threw Welch under the bus: “The mayor’s handwriting’s not that good!”

Everyone, including the mayor, roared with laughter.

As this boisterous meeting wobbled to the finish line, Mayor Welch asked the kids to explain the vast knowledge they had amassed as council understudies.

“I attended the Chamber of Commerce meeting,” Student Mayor Clate volunteered. “A lot went over my head because, yeah–I’m not used to the business jargon.”

He reflected. “I didn’t understand a lot of it!”

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Hey, even the adults don’t understand a lot of it.

Council Member Laura Hodges introduced her shadow student, Taylor, who promptly took the microphone and described their visit to the sewage treatment plant: “we got to smell a lot of things.”

Council President Darrell Henderson was paired with Casey. “He’s the student rep on the school board,” Henderson explained, “so he thinks this is really an easy meeting.”

“Well, he’s not wrong,” Casey deadpanned to chuckles. At least we know now where he gets that boatload of confidence!

Like a practiced politician, he added that council members “know more in 1/16th of their brain than I have known in my entire 17 years of living thus far.”

Hmm. Casey, howzabout you come back next meeting?

#63: Pasadena, TX 11/1/16

This week, we go to Pasadena! No, not the home of movie stars and the Rose Bowl. But rather, the home of even COOLER STUFF.

Exhibit A: barely half a second after the Pledge of Allegiance, the entire council and packed audience sharply pivoted 90 degrees to face the sacred flag of Texas.

“…with liberty and justice for all. Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.”

Oh, I’m sorry–you guys DIDN’T know the Texas Pledge of Allegiance? Pfft, this is why the country is going down the tubes at warp speed.

After sitting down, each council member had the opportunity to make announcements. As it turns out, the most pressing issue in Pasadena was…Council Member Cody Ray Wheeler’s backyard lagoon?

“About 12 days ago, I had someone drive through my fence into my pool,” he recalled fondly. “Before the gentleman could get out of his car to my house, the police were already there. So I appreciate them doing that.”

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“What I’m saying is, the pool party is cancelled.”

Council Member Cary Bass was ever so curious about the young people with matching t-shirts in the front row. “We got Keller Middle School! I think you are gonna sing a song for us today,” he teased the kids, as the room chuckled. “They’re lookin’ at me goin’, ‘there’s no song. We’re gonna talk.'”

And, tragically, they did opt for talking over singing.

“This year, we will be collecting nonperishable food items for the food drive,” one child read at the podium as the other middle schoolers stood in formation. Suddenly, she barked: “Rangers, lead the way!”

To which everyone behind her chanted,  “ALL THE WAY UP!”

Everyone in the chamber laughed. “Allll the wayyyyy up!” Mayor Johnny Isbell repeated singsong.

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I’ll take 500 of those shirts, please.

Well, shucks–between the cute kids and Council Member Wheeler’s pool being ruined, this was just the perfect council meeting.

Until…

“I’ll be supporting this,” Mayor Isbell said of a bill that would keep insurance premiums for city employees low, but raise premiums on retirees.  “I think it’s a good deal for the city.”

Almost everyone agreed–except for Council Member Pat Van Houte, who voted no.

“Council Member Van Houte votes no….against the city employees. Great,” the mayor mumbled, clacking his gavel. “Okay–”

“Mayor,” Council Member Van Houte leaned forward incredulously. “What did you say?”

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Children, leave the room. This is Texas and people have guns.

His Honor paused and stared at her, searching for words. “What did I say? I don’t remember what I said.” He sounded genuinely bewildered. “I said, ‘Council Member Van Houte votes no on the insurance rate employees…for the employees.'”

He shot her a dirty look. “Did that bother you?”

Look, I’ll admit that the mayor, who was talking like a librarian with a sore throat, was hard to hear. But he DEFINITELY did not say THAT.

“It sounded like you said something else,” Van Houte shot back skeptically.

Mayor Isbell brushed her off. “I’m sure it’s on tape, whatever that is.”

Final thoughts: City Council Chronicles exists solely to quash minor verbal feuds. I wouldn’t say the mayor’s pants are on fire, but I do give 10 out of 10 Pinocchios to his revisionist history.

#10: Delaware, OH 4/25/16

If you were passing through Delaware, Ohio, you could’ve watched “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” No, not the Clint Eastwood movie. I’m talking about this week’s city council meeting, which was such an adrenaline-filled roller-coaster ride, pregnant women should stop reading now.

First, the good news: Delaware needs more money to par-tay! “In case you haven’t noticed, we are going to have a record number of openings of parks, etc. over the next several weeks,” assistant city manager Jacqueline Walker boasted. “To celebrate these accomplishments for the citizens, we’re trying to”–get some strippers and champagne, ya’ll!–“have an additional $9,500 to pay for these openings as well as investing in a tent that actually has the City of Delaware logo.”

Oh, hell yeah! You can do anything in a tent–start a mosh pit, pass out city-branded key chains…Delaware, you nasty! Although, there’s one thing you can’t do in the tent: sit.

“You’re gonna have a tent? What about chairs?” asked Councilman Joe DiGenova, a huge fan of tush-resting.

“The tent that we’re looking at is a small place,” the assistant city manager explained. Okay, so maybe no mosh pit. Or even a barbecue pit. You’d be lucky to have room for peach pits in there.

Next up: the bad. During public comment, resident Dwayne “My Real Name” Johnson scissor-kicked the local watering hole.

“Does the city council currently have any plans to build a full size pool?” Johnson attacked.

“Well, we have a pool at Mingo [Park],” Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle defended.

“If you go there during the summer, you can’t find a place to put your towel down and the pool’s full,” he body slammed her argument.

Councilman George Hellinger tagged in, saying they built a splash pad at Veterans Memorial Park.

“Why would you put a splash pad in rather than a regular pool like Mingo that has a kid’s pool?” Johnson heart punched.

“Well, now all the kids will be at the splash pad,” the mayor laughed nervously, sensing the K.O.

“Adults and teenagers are not going to sit on a splash pad. That’s not gonna happen.” Boom! Down for the count. The Need-Another-Pool Avenger does a massive take down of his arch-nemesis: the Delaware City Council.

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Dwayne Johnson: slayer of giants, enthusiast of empty pools

Finally, the ugly. It seems that there’s trash mysteriously appearing downtown, and Councilwoman Lisa Keller is patient zero. “I’ve become the face of downtown trash,” she warned. “I get messages that there’s trash–with pictures–and I forward them to the city manager. I’m happy to do it, but there’s got to be a better way.”

Councilman Herrington cut in: “‘I am the face of garbage in Delaware.’ That’s a great headline.”

Assistant city manager Walker took pity on the councilwoman from the Trashpile District. “That may not be sustainable for them to come out and pick that up. I agree with you, you shouldn’t be the face of that.” Things could be worse: she could be the face of the urine-saturated Mingo Park pool instead.

Final thoughts: I’m disappointed the council did not find the obvious solution: seal the new tent, fill it up with water so Dwayne can swim in it–and in exchange for his private pool, he has to pick up trash downtown.