Jeez, what a long day. Out of the house at 6:30 a.m., back up the driveway at 6 p.m. It would have been 5:40, but two wrecks on the freeway necessitated a detour. A quick break to water the drooping plants, change clothes, throw together an entirely improvised pasta — fresh mooz, cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic — then back out the door for a town hall in my very own.
There’s a tax increase on the fall ballot, split into two parts. I was undecided going into the meeting, but the city made a pretty good case. As you might imagine, there is fierce opposition, not all of which is hysterical and tea party-ish. So this is how the meeting ran: The city manager stood up and gave a little welcome, then introduced the comptroller, who ran through the PowerPoint. Then he introduced all the city department heads, the mayor and council, directing them to seats at tables that ran along the perimeter of the room.
“Feel free to ask any questions of these people, and we’ll stay until we’re all done. Just approach whoever you like,” he said.
An old man sitting in front of me stood up and bellowed, WE WANT OUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED!
“Ask whatever questions you like,” the manager said. “That’s what these people are here for — the mayor, the council. Go ahead.”
But of course the old man — and many others — didn’t want questions answered, they wanted to stand behind a microphone and yell. One passed out a flyer demanding CUT THE FAT in all caps. A woman walked to the front of the room and started screeching about duplicate services and so forth. The more she screeched, the more people left.
As crowd control goes, it was a stroke of genius. You can tell the city manager has a background in law enforcement.
The thing is, the opposition has a point: There is a certain amount of fat in the budget, if you consider $150 to buy pizza for poll workers on election days fat. But even if you make them brown-bag it, and sweep up a few thousand more here and there, it’s not going to be enough to make the nut. I walked in undecided, left decided. The yelling didn’t help.
So, on the verge of collapse, I will say this: I watched “Treme,” and lo, it was good. For more, I’m sure Back of Town can catch you up. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Prospero, read this. (Link is fixed.)