Courage at Twilight: A Thousand Wednesdays

Almost every Wednesday night for the past 27 years I have spent attending city meetings: City Council, Planning Commission, Redevelopment Agency, Building Authority, and Water District.  This calculates to about 1,350 Wednesday meeting nights.  This schedule shifted my mental paradigm from a Sunday-to-Saturday week to a Wednesday-to-Wednesday week.  I planned my work weeks around Wednesdays, preparing resolutions, ordinances, staff reports, memoranda, and exhibits in time for meeting deadlines, and presenting them to the elected and appointed city officials.  I have worked for 5 elected Mayors, 25 elected City Councilpersons, and dozens of Planning Commissioners.  In my early days, officials with big egos kept the city staff hostage in contentious discussions until long after midnight.  And one Mayor cruelly insisted on having staff meeting with his department heads the next morning at 7:00 a.m.  My hour-long commute during those years contributed to growing exhaustion and anxiety.  City Council meetings now begin at 5:30 p.m., enabling us to conduct most of our informal discussions prior to the business meeting at 7:00, instead of after—most weeks I can leave by 9:00 p.m.  Arriving at home around 10:00, Mom and Dad ask me for meeting reports.  The biggest crowd I ever saw at a City Council meeting was when the Council considered an ordinance to prohibit pit bull dogs—while pit bulls can be sweet, bad owners make some of them bad and dangerous dogs.  Furious pit bull enthusiasts packed the Council chambers and lashed out at the proposal—and the Council backed down.  The smallest attendance I have seen at a City Council meeting was, well, zero.  Even the annual budget meetings draw scant crowds, unless a tax increase is proposed.  In hundreds of closed-door meetings, I have advised and strategized and wrangled with the Council about difficult litigation, property acquisition, and personnel matters.  I have long since adjusted to spending every Wednesday evening at work, standing before the City Council presenting policy proposals, providing training, and introducing agenda items, sometimes with angry eyes boring into my back, sometimes with verbal jousts with those on the dais.  All in a Wednesday week’s work.  One day I will have Wednesday nights off, and won’t know what to do with myself.  Just kidding—I always have plenty of projects to do.

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