My First Council Meeting
November 17, 2009 1 Comment
Madison and I ventured out to our first County Council meeting last night. I didn’t make it in time to sign up to speak, but no worries, I was thoroughly entertained, insulted, and educated all at the same time. So the first part of the evening is the business meeting. This is where the council members vote on bills and amendments they’ve previously discussed and debated. I have to admit, it’s pretty stinking boring, or at least it was.
Up comes this bill to restrict the use of tanning beds for minors, presented to us by the not-so-honorable Councilman Gardina. He argued that tanning beds emit harmful radiation that causes melanoma, and therefore, we should not allow teenagers to use them. His proposed bill restricts the use of a tanning bed by a minor to those who not only have their parents permission (as written in state law) but also have a prescription from a doctor. Is this guy serious? Is he completely out of touch with reality? Does he just suppose that all parents are incapable of controlling their own children? Clearly, he doesn’t trust us. I wonder what his wife thinks about that. And seriously, did anyone think about the harmful radiation that comes from the SUN. I’m guessing that’s where he’d go next. Can you imagine? “Excuse me, miss, do you have your written parental permission and a doctor’s prescription to come to this pool (or beach)?” Ridiculous, right? Thankfully several of the board members agreed with me, probably not at the same level, but still, they agreed. The bill failed with a vote of 5-2. The yay-sayers were Kamentz & Gardina, neither of which brings me to the insulting part of my night.
After the conclusion of the legislative meeting, it was time for the people to speak. The room was filled with people waiting to testify on this whole pension debacle. Gardina starts to speak, excusing himself from the meeting. Naturally, at the irony of it, people start to snicker, gasp, and flat out laugh (no boos). Gardina doesn’t even finish his statement, he turns to the audience, and explodes. I’m not exactly quoting this because a certain Mike Estev didn’t have my video camera on (not bitter or anything Mike :)), but here’s the gist. “I’ll have you know that my brother has been in the hospital for 10 weeks and I’ve only had 4 days to renovate his house. If you don’t like it, I don’t give a damn.” And then came an insulting rhetoric that involved some unkind words about us, but I can’t for the life of me remember them. I think that is due to the fact that I was literally in shock. I don’t have a ton of interaction with politicians outside of their polished TV appearances, but the two that I have had have revealed some true colors. First was O’Malley at the Fourth of July parade who was completely disrespectful and condescending as he passed by the PVRC in his motorcade. The second was last night with Gardina’s inappropriate outburst. So a few people laughed, can you blame them? They came there to testify against a lucrative pension plan that Gardina is fully benefiting from. Come on, the irony alone deserves a snicker or two, but the reaction was so far outside the realm of normal, it was more revealing of his character then anything else. How this man was elected to 5 terms is beyond me. I sat in a room with him for less than an hour before the outburst, and just by watching his body language and the way he handled the tanning bed bill, I could tell you now, he’d never get my vote. Then he attacked the very people he represents? Can someone say insecurity? He’s obviously feeling like he’s on the hot seat, and I’m not sure he can handle it. He’s become the poster child for this whole debacle, but instead of handling it with grace, he’s allowing his true colors to squeeze out under the pressure. It will be interesting to see if he offers an apology or if the media will even cover such a display.
Lastly came the testimonies from private citizens and a couple representing AFP, in regards to pension plans. I’d like to expand on this a little more, as well as include video, so I’m going to post this a little later this afternoon. What I’d like to note is a few of the reactions I observed. First of all, the council themselves, looked as if they were completely bored and annoyed with the fact that we were even there. They were engaging in side conversations with each other and the secretary. They were doodling on their pads, looking down for the majority of the testimonies. Very few of them would even look at the people who were pouring out their hearts in two minutes time. They weren’t even trying to fake it. It was obvious that they felt this meeting was a waste of their time. My opinion, we should “waste” their time at EVERY FREAKING LEGISLATIVE SESSION FROM NOW UNTIL THE ELECTION. Why should they just have to endure a one time, special event? I say we hammer them.
Another reaction I saw was from the police officers on duty in the room. I watched their faces as people spoke about their service compared to their pensions. They squeezed out a smile or two, glancing over to one another, agreeing without seeming like they agree. They were on duty after all. But I could tell that they appreciated being thought of as valiant protectors of the citizens. In my opinion, one who risks their life deserves more of a pension then one who sits high in a cushy, leather seat disregarding the opinions of the very people who put them there.
Stay tuned for video and highlights from last night’s speakers, including County Council candidate, Steve Whisler, PVRC president, Harry Korrell, and several other PVRC members and friends. Thanks to Mike Estev for videotaping while I kept Madison as quite as possible.