I’ll never forget my first council meeting.
I was green cub reporter, fresh from journalism school and being paid by the column inch to cover the Town Board of Trustees meeting at a little town just outside of Boulder.
I walked to the meeting, began introducing myself to the people at the meeting and grabbing a good spot. There were a couple of older ladies at the front, and I introduced myself. They owned the beauty parlor in town and said they attended all of the meetings.
“Best show on the planet. Beats the hell out of whatever’s on TV,” one said.
They sat alone in the front row, right in front of the trustees, a bag of chips, some dip and soft drinks on the chair between them.
I take my seat just as the mayor calls the meeting to order. All rise, and everyone says the Pledge of Allegiance.
It’s the last respectful thing that happened that evening.
The mayor, Mayor Charles Dolphin, begins to talk, but one of the ladies interrupts:
“Keep it clean, Flipper,” she said. “Try not to screw anything up, this time.”
And that’s how it went, the entire evening. The mayor would talk, the ladies would ridicule him and he’d pretend not to hear them. They’d crunch on their chips, pop open their Cokes and laugh at private jokes.
They just didn’t like the guy. They’re candidate had lost, so they went out of their way to make the mayor’ miserable, pointing to every possible mistake, laughing, teasing, joking and insulting at every opportunity. It was hard not to laugh along with them, and many in the audience didn’t try. Some joined right in, with sly insults of their own. I think that’s why they even bothered to show up.
I was appalled.
I thought politicians were serious people, making serious decisions after serious discussions.
I’ve seen worse since then. I’ve seen councilors roll their eyes, throw things, belittle each other and their constituents. I’ve seen state legislators lose their cool. I’ve seen politicians too drunk to stay in their seats.
There is no dignity in local politics.
That’s what makes it so much fun to watch.