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Doug Clark: Thank Lola for George McGrath’s years of City Council rants

TUESDAY, OCT. 8, 2013

What would it take to get George McGrath to stay home and watch Monday Night Football?

Or maybe take a vow of silence?

I pose these questions with all due respect for George, who is a pleasant-enough fellow and has always treated me well.

But after the fourth or fifth time of hearing this 76-year-old curmudgeon pop off during the City Council meeting I attended a week ago, I began to experience an emotion that I didn’t think was possible.

I started feeling – gasp – sorry for council members.

See, I dropped in on the Council Chambers for only one night to cover (strange word, huh?) the bare barista brouhaha.

Who knows what dire effect the incessant wrath of McGrath might have on the poor captives who have to show up week after week after …

No wonder Joe Shogan began drooling and hearing voices toward the end of his tenure as council president.

If the name George McGrath doesn’t ring a bell, you obviously haven’t attended a City Council meeting since, oh, I don’t know, the Great Spokane Fire of 1889?

I’m exaggerating, of course.

McGrath has only been a City Council fixture since the mid-1990s, when Jack Geraghty was our current one-termer.

It all started over a public flap about an unpopular divider on 29th Avenue. Lola, McGrath’s wife of 53 years, told Silver (the nickname she uses for her man) that he should go to City Hall and speak his mind on the topic.

“He’s very, very smart and a very good reader,” affirmed Lola.

McGrath found a calling. He began showing up every meeting to voice his mostly contrarian and conservative opinions during public forum times or discussion periods prior to votes or …

McGrath views an open microphone the way Dracula views an available artery.

Speaking of which, McGrath recalled with glee how a “big vein” on the side of Mayor Geraghty’s head would start “swelling and throbbing” whenever he’d testify.

Then again, Mayor John Powers “didn’t like me because I was opposed to every idiotic idea he ever had.”

Do I have to spell it out for you?

Like the drip of the fabled Chinese water torture, McGrath slowly yakked his way into becoming the city’s pontiff of pontification.

Is he a gadfly? Is he a gasbag?

Depends on your ideology, I guess.

A lot of what McGrath grouses about has to do with smaller government and less spending, so I can’t fault him for everything he says.

Politicians are the same jerks we hated in high school, after all.

But it’s equally true that McGrath has reached the saturation point. He’s become a caricature who has forfeited whatever effectiveness he might have had through overexposure and hot air.

“There are a lot of years where I haven’t missed more than” one or two meetings, McGrath said when I called to chat about him being the longest-running act in the show-and-tell biz.

A former sales rep for a plumbing manufacturer, McGrath speaks in a jovial clipped, folksy way that probably moved a lot of toilet flappers and ballcocks.

McGrath uses cornpone phraseology like “whoa, Nellie” or “that ain’t right” and draws from a seemingly endless supply of opinions.

“City Council regular George McGrath testifies that people have the right to shoot to stop someone from stealing an apple,” noted a tweeting City Hall reporter.

It’s “all smoke and mirrors and gibberish,” observed McGrath on another occasion.

The city’s formal record of council doings often contains references such as …

Mr. McGrath commented on coal trains.

Mr. McGrath commented on the civic responsibility of people to vote.

Here a McGrath. There a McGrath.

Everywhere a McGrath-Grath.

When I was there, McGrath wore a Tickle Me Elmo sweatshirt.

I told him during our phone call that I wouldn’t be shocked if he someday started acting out his testimonials with sock puppets.

“If I do,” he answered, “one of them will look like (Councilman) Jon Snyder.”

Fact: George McGrath turns 77 on Oct. 14, next Monday.

To McGrath, however, it’ll be just another night at the council with more blathering opportunities to be had.

Woe, Nellie.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or at dougc@spokesman.com.

 

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