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Schlock the Vote

"The missles are flying. Hallelujah, hallelujah!"--Greg Stillson
For those that don’t know (because it’s so ridiculous I never mention it) I’ve been an elected official for five months now.

Don’t get too excited. I’m only a lowly neighborhood councilman. Sheboygan, Wisconsin’s Annual Kielbasa Queen has more power and authority than I do.

But it has been a learning experience. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

They mayor swears you in
On the vacant waves of public-access television no less. He must have thought I was a reject from Animal House, because when he got to me he reminded me that when he says, "I (state your name)…", I’m not supposed to literally say "state your name." No cool nicknames like Otter or Boone were handed out, but I did get the equivalent of a pledge pin. Apparently ritualistic spankings are reserved for school-board members.

Vegans don’t like the smell of juicy delicious BBQ
In my first council meeting someone from "the public" complained about the barbecue smell coming from Tony Roma’s. I actually laughed out loud, and almost choked up the riblets I’d had for lunch. Upon further examination of his skinny emaciated physique, rangy beard, and Meat is Murder tattoo—it turns out he was a vegan, protesting the consumption of meat in general. One person’s BBQ smell is another’s stench of death. I don't like the smell of brussel sprouts, but you don't hear me complaining.

Entrapment doesn't always involve prostitutes
Helpful tip of the day. When a policeman pulls you over and asks how fast you were going, they’re trying to trick you. Sure, you were doing 89 in a deaf school zone, but you say you were only doing 50––just to round it down a bit. As long as you admit to being over the posted limit, The Man owns you in court. If you say "I dunno" then he’s forced to rely on his radar gun which doesn’t look so good sitting on the witness stand.

Old laws create memorable recreational opportunities
The beauty of learning about local government is finding out about old laws that still exist. For instance, in Montana, rifle hunting within city limits is illegal. But hey kids, what about bows? Surprise! They’re still legal in some places. So the next time you’re in the Blockbuster parking lot and Bambi walks by, feel free to nock that arrow and shoot him in the head. No law against cock-fighting in your gated community? Have at it. Just remember, no wagering.

Not everyone creates the illusion that they care. Some are genuine
The one really cool thing was meeting Mickey Fearn, the director of Seattle’s Office of Social Justice. Mickey’s job description is simple. Prevent racism. That’s like solving world hunger or curing 8th grade acne. Yet this man took on the challenge. I learned more about the subtlety of human dynamics in one weekend with Mickey than my entire college career. No joke.

Anyone with a pulse can be elected. Just look at me
I’m the poster child. There were three vacant seats in my district, so in a momentary lapse of reason I signed up at 4:59 PM on the last day of filing.  I ran unopposed, did no campaigning, and took it all in a one-man landslide. I was out of town on Election Day, but knew that as long as my wife voted for me, I was in. Even then I had to do some serious 11th hour rallying to get her off "undecided".

Basically, it's one meeting a month. And there are real issues. School zoning, water use, and that pesky no-touch ordinance at the local strip club. That's gotta go. My campaign slogan for 2008: "No Stripper Left Behind". (Don't forget to register).

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Reader Comments (15)


I spent ten years as a political consultant and your paragraph about vegans was a trip down memory lane.

Bring on the barbecue. In fact, string up your bow, whack Bambi, and grill the tenderloin right there in the parking lot. I'll be on the next flight, assuming they have planes in Montana.

April 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Hurtubise

And I'll bring the horseradish. MMmmmm... Bambi.

(wait, bambi's the deer, right? Not the stripper? Sometimes I bring the wrong garnish)
April 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermike
Bring some BBQ sauce and a wad of one dollar bills, that's all you really need.
April 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
I think that's cool. Around here, local officials are powerful peeps. They decide whether the area keeps any charm at all, or just gives all in to the growth and becomes one big vinyl-and-strip-mall village.
April 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
We reeeeeaaaaally have no power. We vote on issues in our area and recommend that vote to the city commission, but it's not binding.

It's kind of fun though. I had to speak to the Boy Scouts. And because technically we are elected, cabinet members at the state capital think we do have some authority, so they at least listen if we have some relevant issue.

No pepperpot interns though. Darn.
April 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
Good stuff, congrats. Just make sure people have plenty of garbage bins. For some reason, that seems really important to me right now. *shrug*
April 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Hatadi
congrats on being voted onto the council.
take a bit of advice. Stay away from the interns.
April 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSnagley
It's great that you're that involved in your community. I often think about engaging in the process more... such thoughts are generally followed by naps. Our favorite progressive radio host, Thom Hartman, is always urging people to run for office in their community or at least go to meetings. For most of us, me included, democracy is such an intangible... especially in this day & age.
April 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaini
Thanks folks. It's a two-year unpaid gig. Not a big deal.I don't have any political ambition whatsoever. There were vacant seats, so I figured what the heck.

The two things you never want to watch being made are sausages and laws, and there's a little of that. But I've gained a new appreciation for what makes local governments tick.

The funny thing is, deep down, I still feel like I'm 16. I play PS2 and probably enjoy the Andy Milonakis Show more than my kids. So being an "elected official" feels a little strange.
April 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
Aw, Jamie, don't sell yourself short. If I lived in your district, I'd vote for you.
April 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdana
Way to go! I finally know someone who can pull a few strings for me.

If you need anyone to head a research committee for the No Stripper Left Behind Act, look no further. (Would bribes help at this point?)
April 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDZ Allen
I'm with you, Jamie. Strippers have been oppressed for far too long. More power to ya.
April 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKarl
I love those crazy old laws. In Sheffield, UK, it's legal to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow, as long as he's outside the city limits and you're inside.

April 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi
"No stripper left behind."

With a slogan like that, you can't lose!
April 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJess
Ahh, yes. I remember the one-dollar bill. I remember it fondly. Now all I get is the jingle-jangle of heavy coins in my pocket, and the promise of cold-cocking a stripper when "leaving a tip". (and yes, I said cocking.)
April 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermike

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