After debating ways to make the public comment session of council meetings more effective and less prone to abuse, the council piloted a program this week by creating a literal strawman council to hear public comments.
“The public comment sessions were getting really tedious,” said Councilor Josh Denton. “I know Jack [Blalock]’s eyes would start to glaze over after about 20 minutes. We had to do something.”
The creative solution was dreamed up in a hallway meeting – to just build some councilors out of straw and tell everyone that the public comment would be a day after the real city council meeting.
“It was hard getting it right,” said Councilor Dwyer. “We wanted to make sure it was convincing, and Nancy [Pearson] just always looks so fabulous – feminine but hinting at a capability for great and sudden violence. It was hard to pull off her style with just hay, burlap, and flannel.”
Despite the setbacks, sure enough, at 7pm on Tuesday July 11th, the usual ten or so public comment regulars showed up to the silent glares of lovingly-placed button eyes. The meeting went on for 4 hours before the comments finally ceased. Dwyer cued a pre-recorded call to order from her ipod over the council chambers PA and sat back to watch what unfolded.
“Just look at these poor fuckers,” said City Manager John Bohenko, watching from the CCTV lair and developer bribe acceptance suite on top of the police station where he monitors every Portsmouth citizen and also accepts bribes from developers to ruin Portsmouth. “They’re totally buying it,” he adds, sitting atop his golden swivel office chair.
Citizen reactions were mostly positive.
“The overall meeting was just great tonight,” said frequent speaker Esther Kennedy. “I really feel like the council was listening to what we had to say, for once. I thought they were going to cut us off, but they never did. I feel like [Jane] Zill and I made excellent points now that we have more than three minutes. They even let me bring out my cork and yarn board.”
“At first I thought it was ridiculous,” explained Brian Kelly, young idiot. “They never told her to stop! I usually think rules are important unless it’s me, so I was ready to say something. I was feeling really discouraged. Then it dawned on me – their reactionless silence is intended as a parody of the state of discourse in Portsmouth. It was a piece of performance art, really.”
“The only one who said anything was Councilor [Jim] Splaine,” said Kennedy, “who was enlightening as usual, and you barely notice his robot eye anymore.”
“You can always count on Jim to wait patiently for his turn to speak, and that’s almost like listening.” added Zill.
When asked why Councilor Splaine was the only one in attendance, Mayor Blalock exclaimed, “Oh fuck, we forgot to tell Splaine! Well, I guess it all worked out.”