The first city council meetings probably began in Ancient Mesopotamia, but here we are 6,018 years later and they are still going strong! We rung in the new year with the inauguration of fresh council members and some unconventional suggestions from the old ones.
In perhaps the biggest event of 2018, I gave the annual State of the City Council Meetings address to a joint session of Congress. While I feel bad that they all had to return a few days later for some other “state of the” something, I got my message across loud and clear: I, too, can read a teleprompter.
For the address, the reviews, and the podcast interviews, do not wait another year to check out the January Month in Review.
And if someone tells you that January was just a so-so month for council meetings, you tell them, “when else are you gonna hear a councilor say the phrase, ‘Brawls Deep?'”
A new year meant a new, positive attitude at the Prescott city council.
“Mayor Pro Tem, do you have any introductions today?” quizzed Mayor Greg Mengarelli.
“It’s just great to see some new people in the audience,” replied a smiling Councilwoman Billie Orr.
The mayor turned and eyed the man to her left. “And Councilman…Sisch-ka?” he pronounced slowly, with some difficulty. “I’m trying!” he added as snickering arose.
“That’s all right, Mayor,” Councilman Steve Sischka nodded sympathetically. “I couldn’t pronounce it till I was 12 years old!”
“Mayor,” Councilwoman Orr interjected. “I do have one other thing. I was so excited to learn that Expedia named Prescott one of the 18 cities in the United States that you must visit in 2018. That’s a HUGE deal for us!”
However, the easy ride ended here. For one eagle-eyed and sharp-nosed councilman was ready to dive into the hard topics.
“I’m concerned about the escalating growth of this contract,” Councilman Phil Goode thundered about the city’s software update. “When is it gonna end?!”
“We’ve been on this software since 1998,” the IT director explained calmly. “It’s almost like ripping open a house: you hope for the best. You have a budget. Next thing you know, it was built out of solid lead. It has asbestos.”
Granted, a solid lead house would be pretty alarming. But what about a 100-year-old dam?
“This item is for construction of the wet side of the dam,” an employee prefaced. “Some improvements to the gate valve.”
“Just so I can hear you say it: how long will this valve last?” questioned Councilman Steve Blair. “That’s an expensive valve.”
The employee waited a beat before mumbling: “a long time.” Council members chuckled.
“Is there a warranty on this valve?” Councilman Blair pressed.
“The existing valves on the dam go back to the original construction of it,” another staff member responded, scanning his brain for the precise year. “1931?”
WOW. An 87-year old dam valve is quite a scary–
“1919–” he corrected himself by looking down at his notes, “–the existing valves are from. It’s a knife gate. It’ll slide up and down on the front of it.”
While part of me wanted to see the 99-year-old knife gate live to see one hundred, Councilman Goode jumped in–this time defending a large expenditure. “I just want to make sure everyone understands that we don’t have a lot of options here. This HAS to be fixed.”
Indeed, it would be difficult for people to visit this Expedia “top 18” city if it was underwater. This just makes smart tourism sense.
Speaking of smart, one public commenter had clearly done his research on the pending loan ordinance for three wastewater projects.
“With regard to the emergency clause, I understand the need to close the loan within 30 days,” he began encouragingly. “But I’m looking at the emergency requirements under the charter, which require ‘the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety.'”
He looked up and narrowed his eyes with suspicion. “Does closing the loan within 30 days meet that criteria?”
The city attorney leaned forward, obviously anticipating this question. “Emergency clauses are allowed under state law to preserve the public peace, health, safety, and welfare. That welfare provision is critical. Preserving the public welfare also includes the FISCAL welfare of the city.”
You hear that, Expedia? That prudence is cause for getting on the “top 19” list next year!