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Public Forum Is Best Part Of Boring Council

Sun., Dec. 17, 1995

At their best, Spokane City Council meetings are as thrilling as watching cold gravy congeal.

This is a world-class collection of sleepwalkers led by Mayor Jack Geraghty, a guy I’d wager could win a staring contest with a corpse.

And now Mayor Monotone and his Snooze Patrol want to pluck the lone maraschino cherry from atop their dish of dietetic vanilla ice cream.

They want to pull the plug on the public forum.

Oh, say it ain’t so.

The public forum is a rude, crude half-hour of rambunctious hilarity where citizens face the council to air various gripes, concerns and delusional outbursts.

Last summer - in a rare flash of brilliance - the council moved the forum from the end of their snorefests to the beginning.

Our beloved leaders thought this to be a swell idea only because they never really expected more of the public to show up. If there’s anything guaranteed to make an elected official sweat bullets it’s a more-involved public.

But use the public forum they do.

The preamble to every council meeting now is an unparalleled parade of fruitcakes. The best part is you don’t have to buy a ticket or get committed to a nuthouse to enjoy it. The show is broadcast to our homes on Channel 5, thanks to the unblinking eye of the Cox Cable TV rabble-cam.

I tune in whenever I can. The public forum has more belly laughs than “Seinfeld” or “Simpsons” reruns because it is totally live and unrehearsed mayhem.

One of my favorite episodes involved a wild-haired, messianic loon who kept warning the council that “judgment day” was nigh.

Speaking in a they’ll-never-take-me-alive tone, he said he would no longer tolerate abuse from police and, presumably, all the voices he hears through the fillings in his molars.

No public forum is complete without a cameo appearance by Jimmy Marks. Spokane’s Gypsy poohbah storms the podium with the constipated countenance of an Old Testament prophet or an IRS auditor.

Jimmy loves to mutter, “An a-nudder ting,” while wagging a stubby finger at the council members he loathes and invariably refers to as “poor babies.”

Jimmy is the one visiting jackal who can twist Geraghty’s normally tofu expression into something resembling the throes of an obstructed bowel.

I once turned on the public forum to hear one of the Gang of Nine snivelers suggest that a column I wrote caused one of his cronies to suffer a heart attack.

Hey, I’m good, but not that good.

A reader of mine, Jim, called recently to say he was going to the public forum to protest a parking ticket.

Jim has spent days memorizing all the vagaries and nuances of Spokane’s parking code. He has prepared what is sure to be one brain-numbing harangue.

“I don’t know if I should go now,” said Jim, “or wait until after the first of the year,” when new council members are sworn in.

Hurry, Jim, hurry. Our Sominex City Council has threatened to banish the public forum next month to the untelevised, catatonic finale of its meetings.

This will be the biggest crime against comedy since the canceling of “The Gong Show.”

I’m sick of all those politically correct sissies who whine for polite, safe and sane government.

Government works best when it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: a cross between a carnival peep show and an autopsy.

We need more, not fewer, public forums. We need to go back to electing bloated, cigar-chomping characters who swagger and wear watch fobs and have nicknames like “Big Tuna” and “Kingfish.”

Maybe government wasn’t pretty back in the old days. Maybe it wasn’t polite or squeaky clean. But it never put you to sleep and, you know, things got done.

, DataTimes

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