The Fayetteville City Council meeting on Tuesday reminded me why I hate going to such gatherings sometimes.
The long stretches of boredom.
No, I’m not suggesting the business of running local government is unimportant or uninteresting. Aspects of it can be downright festive. Watching the interplay of ideas and goals among elected officials, residents and, in this case, city staff is almost always worth the price of admission.
But the agonizing march through the unending mire of legalese, citing of statutes and cataloging of codes — that’s an endurance contest.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan is a good speaker, but no oratory skill in the world can make reading the city’s consent agenda — a cascade of words reduced to blah, blah, blah — interesting. I kept fantasizing about Jack Black leaping to the microphone, finding a way to make ordinances rhyme and laying down a wicked guitar riff behind them.
Dull, dull, dull. But necessary. Government and some drudgery go hand-in-hand. It’s about the business of providing order in society, not putting on a three-ring circus to entertain idiots such as myself.
It’s one of the things I admire about people who serve in local government for long periods of time. The idea of sitting through years of legislating sessions, committee meetings, confabs and summits … well, it’s an endurance race I’m OK sitting out. Kudos to those who can and do.
The council meeting did provide one good flash of entertainment when Aaron Stahl exclaimed “Tyranny at its finest.”
Stahl spoke out against the city’s proposal requiring businesses to purchase a license to operate in Fayetteville. He was adamantly opposed to the idea and rattled off a list of ways in which he’d made his opinion known, including being quoted in newspaper articles and sending e-mail to aldermen.
One other person spoke against the proposal — Jeff Dickey, a candidate for Ward 4. Then Chung Tan with the Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of business licenses. That concluded the public comment portion of the agenda, anen addressed aldermen’s questions.
As that was wrapping up, Stahl asked to speak before the council again. The mayor reminded him public comment had been closed and he could only speak if a council member called him forward. No one volunteered to do so, which is when Stahl uttered his “tyranny” phrase.
It was an interesting moment. I thought about the right and the need of the public to weigh in on the matters elected representatives are considering. Would it really have hurt to give Stahl another five or 10 minutes to speak about an issue he was so passionately opposed to?
But then I wondered, what if Mr. Dickey wants another 10 minutes? What if the chamber representative then wanted 20 minutes to respond to the opponents’ voices? Suddenly we’re back to the all-night council meetings Fayetteville used to be famous for, and no one wants that.
There is a reason such proposals have to go through three readings: It’s a built-in mechanism to give time for public reaction. By the third reading Tuesday, I doubt there was anything new Stahl could have said to change aldermen’s minds.
I had the momentary flare of “Freedom of speech!” when Stahl wasn’t allowed to speak again. But the flicker died quickly in the face of the logic it was time to move forward, one way or another.