#158: Columbia, SC 6/5/18

“It’s amazing. You referenced the prophet Isaiah–‘come let us reason together’,” Mayor Steven Benjamin mused after a pastor wrapped up his invocation and the audience lifted their heads.

“We’re gonna move to defer item 41 for two weeks in the interest of everyone talking together again. Let’s see if we can get some good discussion.”

Eying the standing room-only crowd–some wearing color-coordinated t-shirts–the mayor added, “we’re not gonna be voting on the healthcare plan tonight. Some of you obviously have other things that you need to be doing.”

A cacophony of disgruntled murmuring arose as a mob of people lined up for the door. Council members sat stiffly and Mayor Benjamin fingered the gavel just in case.

“Please keep it down just a tad bit!” he hollered.

col1
“See you in two weeks, everyone!”

The crowd may have left, but the fireworks were just getting started.

“Mr. Mayor, I am opposed to this because this is another start of tax breaks for student housing in the city of Columbia,” insisted Councilman Howard Duvall indignantly.

“I respectfully disagree,” Mayor Benjamin replied calmly. “We’re gonna be able to disagree on policy and respectfully disagree.”

For the third time in under a minute, he clarified, respectfully: “But I respect your ability to disagree.”

With that, the fury fizzled. Everyone got on the same page and with rocket speed approved one item after the other–only pausing long enough for Councilman Duvall to exclaim:

“Those were the most detailed plans I’ve ever seen for a bicycle repair rack! About 16 pages!”

All of a sudden, as the clerk prepared to call the roll, Mayor Benjamin stood up and wandered over to Duvall, deliberately switching off the councilman’s microphone and whispering in his ear.

“Mr. Duvall?” the clerk prompted.

With the two men gossiping off mic, Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine glanced over. “Howard, say ‘aye’,” she coached.

Duvall whipped around and blinked. “Aye!” he declared, spinning back to continue with the mayor.

Apparently, Mayor Benjamin is a master of keeping secrets. Not five minutes later, he again sprung up to have a side chat with Councilman Edward McDowell, all the while keeping far away from the microphones.

What was he plotting? A surprise party for someone’s birthday? A legislative coup? A strategic ploy to make the front page of City Council Chronicles?

Untitled presentation-4
Mission accomplished, chief.

Councilwoman Devine raised her hand. “I would just say, regarding mainly our land use boards, the new members will have to go through training.”

She fired a warning shot to the newest crop of board members. “They are sitting and representing the city. They need to hear people out. They need to be respectful. And they need to follow the law.”

I would add a final commandment: they need to avoid having side chatter in a business meeting. (Not directed to anyone in particular!)

Moving on to public comment, a man with a striped tie sternly informed council members, “I myself on May 27 was the victim of racial profiling. I wasn’t pleased.”

Then, in a possible attempt at intimidation, he cautioned: “I told your chief, once my people come from Seattle, we will be organizing protests.”

col1-2.jpg
Seattle knows how to protest, Your Honor.

It didn’t work on Mayor Benjamin. “They’re welcome to come from Seattle, my friend,” he nodded. “We have porous borders. If you are in the borders of the United States of America, you’re welcome to have your positions heard. Happy to talk with you.”

We know you are, Mayor. We know.

#31: Seattle, WA 6/20/16

Seattle’s city council met at two o’clock in the afternoon–yet some council members in this java addicted burg were clearly in need of caffeination. Others, however, came out of the shoot ready to kick ass and read names.

In the latter category, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw hit a one-two punch on a tongue-twister proclamation: “I want to announce that June 20, 2016 is Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Day,” she said, not even slowing for the monster nine-syllable word.

“The core problem stems from genetic disturbance in the DUX4. DUX4 is a coding protein gene located in the D4/Z4 repeat array in the subtelomeric region of the chromosome 4q.” The brainy councilwoman peered smugly over her notes.

“I know all of you know what that means,” she winked. The room chuckled in bewilderment.

Council President Bruce Harrell had a less mind-numbing award to bestow. “We’re gonna honor the women’s golf team that has brought pride to this state and made national history–” he looked up and saw the University of Washington’s golf coach cradling a massive trophy.

“Wow. Look at that hardware.” The president remained as emotionless as an Easter Island statue, but he couldn’t stop staring at the golden prize…or calling it “hardware.” (“The hardware speaks for itself,” he murmured.)

sea1
Nice hardware! And the trophy ain’t bad either–zing!

The council heard public comment from Tyrone, dressed head to toe in silver and looking like a backup dancer in an ABBA music video. “We have did so many damaging thing to foreigner peoples in other lands. We have took land and stole land,” he read haltingly, perhaps unaware that the city council has tragically little jurisdiction over foreigner peoples.

“You’re not sharing the REAL wealth–” he shouted before something unusual happened: his mic was cut. Not because he said the wrong thing, but because he said too many things and his time was up. Some places talk a mean game about sticking to your time, but the Emerald City actually lays down the law. Kudos!

And the council needed all the time they could get, for some hefty ethics legislation was ready–yes, Councilmember Debora Juarez?

“Correct me if I’m wrong here…I didn’t vote in favor of this,” she confusedly announced.

“Well,” the president mused, “I think you’re wrong. Just kidding!” he teased as the other councilmembers snickered. “Did you attend committee?”

Councilmember Juarez thought for a second. “Yes, but I didn’t vote yes!”

“It’s sort of a moot issue,” President Harrell tried to soothe her. But it backfired.

“Why are you smiling like that, Bruce?!” she cried out.

Councilmember Lorena González jumped in to mediate this weird spat. “Luckily, this is all videotaped, so you can go back and look. My recollection, Councilmember Juarez, is that in the committee, all three voted in favor”–including you, was the subtext.

sea3
Bruce, why are you smiling? Bruce, why are you holding a knife? BRUCE?!

BONUS FEATURE:

I dug through vaults of microfiche to find out what actually happened. Here is the committee transcript:

Harrell: I’m ready to vote unless any of you have heartburn about it.

Juarez:

Harrell: All those in favor say aye.

Juarez: Aye.

Busted! Take a walk, Sister Mary Forgetful! YOU’VE BEEN CHRONICLED!

sea4
Councilmember Juarez voted aye, and to the left; aye, and to the left; aye, and to

Final thoughts: Be ye warned: lapses of memory shall not stand!