Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fun With Councilpeople

Based on how fired up people have gotten over the whole Live Nation deal (or no deal?) and the relative hype surrounding last night’s County Council “town hall” meeting at the AFI, I decided to make my first appearance at one of these events. I met up with Eric of fame and we took our seats, fully expecting to witness a knock down, drag out slobberknocker.

There was a packed house and people both inside and outside the theater were handing out fliers for all the usual issues (driving range, purple line, ICC). A long line of potential inquisitors was forming along the right wall of the theater.

The first guy in the line for questions expressed concern over the security situation in the area around the Piney Branch Rd. and University Blvd. intersection*, referencing an attempted kidnapping a couple days ago. He was fairly eloquent in describing the deteriorating conditions in the neighborhood, but immediately went into a rage as soon as a councilperson started to address his question, yelling “that’s not what I’m talking about!” Then he stormed out of the theater, repeatedly yelling “bullshit!” stopping briefly to pick a fight with some guy sitting in the audience. Of course, that would have been the end of it if he hadn’t needed to come back and pick up his jacket that he left in the front row of the theater, immediately in front of the council. So he came back down the other side of the theater yelling “bullshit!” some more, even stopping to shake his fist and yell “bullshit” at the giant Ellen DeGeneres-looking Hillary Clinton banner some guy held up the entire meeting. Comedy gold, I tell you. I’m definitely going to try and catch the public-access TV replay.

*(I’ve advocated in the past ceding that part of Silver Spring to Langley Park. Maybe we can trade it to P.G. County for the small portion of Silver Spring currently in P.G. and a neighborhood to be named later.)

There were some A/V issues and as the councilpeople tried to address the first question, their microphones kept cutting on and off, leading people in the audience to yell at them and wave their arms – also entertaining.

At that point, I thought the meeting might end up being even more interesting than I initially anticipated. Unfortunately, after the thoroughly entertaining opening act, there was a long stretch of standard, non-confrontational questions posed about issues that don’t particularly interest or affect me or that I am tired of hearing about– the ICC, purple line, etc. As multiple members of the council had to get their $0.02 in on each issue, some responses took longer than necessary.

The clock was ticking as the 9PM deadline approached, and I still hadn’t heard a peep about the Fillmore deal. Hoping that that someone would raise the subject before it was too late, we started scanning the line for potential Birchmere advocates. We pinned our hopes on the grey-haired, pony-tailed guy with black jeans and an iPod holster on his belt. He HAD to have a question about the Fillmore. Turns out we were completely wrong – it was actually John Landis, owner of Crisfield Seafood and he had a question about South Silver Spring business development. (No, not the John Landis who directed Blues Brothers and Animal House.) Could we actually get through this whole meeting with no mention of the Fillmore?

Someone walked up and asked about the driving range and mini-golf course project that was planned for the Sligo Creek Golf Course. Well, according to Councilman George Leventhal, “that’s not going to happen”, so I guess that’s that. RIP my hopes for mini-golf. Why does the poor, non-disruptive mini-golf have to be a victim of residents’ aversion to a driving range?

It’s interesting how no matter what anyone complained about, all the councilpersons claim to be against it (the ICC, driving range, etc.) If that’s so, how does this stuff always get through in the first place?

We were particularly curious what the blond guy in the business suit waiting in line was going to ask, since he certainly stood out in a theater populated with Takoma Park-y people. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that he lives in the “unincorporated part of Chevy Chase” and he and his kids were unhappy with the new kind of road surfacing the county has been using. Of course, in the incorporated part of Chevy Chase the streets are paved with gold. The kids there don’t have to touch the road surface anyway, because they all travel using flying skateboards like those in Back to the Future II. They’re Chevy Chase and you’re not.

At this point, there were five minutes left and maybe thirty resilient people still waiting in line. Finally, the last speaker took the microphone. Wait, what, she wanted to know why there wasn’t a “fair and open” process for the J.C. Penney's site? All that they had to say in response was that they were “seeking answers” and that there were “many steps” in the process. Dropping a football reference during Super Bowl week, George Leventhal said that they weren’t even “at halftime yet”. And then the meeting concluded… very anticlimactic.

In the end, I think the most important thing I learned yesterday evening was wholly unrelated to county business. It was that the AFI will be FINALLY be screening The Big Lebowski again, as part of their Complete Coen Brothers series.

In unrelated news...

- NOAA is hosting an exhibit on shipwrecks at their Silver Spring HQ.

- The Silver Spring housing market is still "pretty good". Rockville's, not so much. Hey, if you want to be my neighbor, the house next door to me is on the market.


silver spring penguin said...

These public meetings are always interesting, even when they're totally boring.

The key to surviving them is to find -- and then fixate on -- that one whacky moment when shit just goes crazy. And there's ALWAYS that one moment at these gigs.

Your story about the angry opening act is the prime example of "survival mode".

silver spring penguin said...

One more thing...

I was also surprised that the Fillmore deal wasn't really discussed during the open mic.

However, one middle-aged woman tore into council member Phil Andrews immediately after the gig, saying that the Birchmere would have been better suited to the neighborhood.

"What were you thinking?!?" she yelled at Andrews.

WB said...

Really excellent write up.

This was the first one of these events I had been to and I was totally struck by the council members stranding approximately 20-25 people who had questions. Sends the message that you can stand there for an hour in line, but we really can't be arsed with listening to you or your concerns.

The format would be much better to just have the whole thing be a open reception and people could stand around and have a real give and take with each other.

Mike said...

Now you know why those of us who have been going to these things for many, many years (don't ask) resort to standing in the back making sarcastic, sardonic and snarky comments. The humor is what keeps us sane. :-)

Thayer Avenue said...

You know what these Town Hall meetings need? More cowbell.

Perhaps we should come properly armed next time, eh?

I also think that "The SS Blogosphere" would be a good name for our Rock Band group on Xbox Live.

Sligo said...

That sounds like a Turkish cargo ship, but works for me!

Thayer Avenue said...

At least it's better than rearranging deck chairs on the SS History.

silver spring penguin said...

"The format would be much better to just have the whole thing be a open reception and people could stand around and have a real give and take with each other.

If that's the case, then county council had better come up with better eats than stale cookies and diet Sunkist.

Sligo said...

Funny, I noticed the Sunkist, too. But having worked the concession stand at the old AMC City Place 10 Theaters, I can assure you that orange soda is a very popular beverage in Downtown Silver Spring.

Thaver Ave., too said...

"Slobberknocker." Note to self: gotta use that one in a sentence more often.

As in: "The line for the Diet Sunkist turned into a real slobberknocker last night."

Sligo said...

I learned that word from WWF announcing.

Dan Reed said...

There was food? The first Town Hall I miss - and not only do you make an appearance, but I miss food. I'm heartbroken.