Reality TV has nothing on public meetings
Over the years I have been to hundreds of public meetings at the local, state and federal level. Often people who attend these meetings only see the boring side of things; they often ask me why I like to attend and what I see in these meetings.
The business of governing is extremely interesting to me. While I would not especially like to be a person sitting behind the podium or the platform having to make decisions, the idea that we can, as Americans, have public input into what our government officials are doing is really quite unique in the world. There really aren't that many countries where you can say what you think (civilly and without malice) and still walk away.
But there is also another side to public meetings. While they may not entertain in the fashion of a video game or good movie, they are the truth of public drama; of how we operate in this country. And when looked upon as such, they are more compelling than any television show, because these are true reality shows, one that affects us all.
Not all meetings are positive. Some bring out extremes, others are downright boring. But like mining gold, sometimes you have to sift through a lot of overburden to get to the nuggets. Maybe that is why people don't like attending. They have to work to get to the nut of the matter, whereas on television it is given to you, almost force fed. Those nuggets I was talking about come in the form of interesting stories, weaving tales and sometimes downright funny incidents and comments.
That was brought to mind last week when I covered the Price City Council meeting on Wednesday night. There were a lot of serious subjects covered. Many had to do with public money and how it was being expended. There was talk of water and sewers, fences and buildings, bids and business licenses, etc. All interesting subjects to those involved, but for others pretty boring stuff. It's hard to get excited about a huge sewer project that is costing loads of dough until one day you flush your toilet and you learn that the old sewer line is plugged because it is falling apart. Then it becomes important to you.
Humor is often the way we all get through the meetings, because even some of the most mundane subjects have a funny side to them.
Let's take the Kokopelli sculpture that stood in the middle of the intersection of 100 West and Main for a number of years. Tales of looking up his skirt and people not understanding how to drive around him abound, some of them quite funny. But in the end, the complaints became too great and now he is in a paint room at the city domes looking for a new home so he once again can see the sunlight.
"It's a sad thing," said Price councilman Richard Tatton at the meeting during a discussion. "He is in solitary confinement, all alone and I think we need to get him out."
Tatton went on describing the dire circumstances under which Kokopelli has to exist. It almost made you feel sorry for the figure, which of course has no feelings what-so-ever.
No decisions were made, but almost everyone promised Tatton that soon they would find a place to put the iconic sculture and save him from a fate worse than say a maintenance truck.
Another piece of humor came when Bill and Larue Bate walked up along with Police Chief Aleck Shilaos to the podium to address the council
A few weeks ago the couple were injured when the side-by-side UTV he was driving tumbled end over end down into Mathis Canyon in the Bookcliffs.
"I want to thank all the emergency personnel who helped us and tell them how professional they were," he said as he stood there still wearing a cast on his left arm from the accident. "That is why I want to give the vehicle to the public safety department to use for the police department or whatever they need it for."
"I don't believe I will be riding in it again," he added as he smiled and everyone laughed with him.
The chief stated that the department would be happy to take the 800 cc Polaris Ranger and use it in various capacities. Shilaos later told me the machine needed some repairs from the accident and that it was in the shop being evaluated for an estimate of how much those costs would be.
The Bates should be commended for their public contribution to the city. They could just have well had the machine fixed and sold it, making back at least part of their investment, but instead they wanted to repay the service that was rendered to them in a tangible way.
It was a heartwarming tribute to our emergency personnel. It was real and genuine.
There is also the other side of public meetings; the pathos that comes out of some peoples experiences. None of that happened last week, but I have been in meetings where people tell compelling stories about situations that are dire. Sometimes what they are facing in either trying to mediate a wrong or move ahead with something they want to do is emotional for everyone listening. Some find themselves trapped by bearaucracy or circumstances beyond their control. Most satisfying is when the public board they are appealing to is able to do something about their situation or rectify a wrong. However, often it is not within the board's power to do so and other avenues must be sought to remedy the problem. Even a hardened newsman walks away from hearing some of those stories with a lump in their throat.
It is a unique experience being a reporter for a newspaper; the stories you hear, the things you see, the people you meet, the mistakes you sometimes make, all make you a better person and helps you to realize that real life is every bit as entertaining as any other medium, in fact more so.
Other than a possible exotic locale, reality TV has nothing on public debate and discussion.