Christmas is more than a month behind us, and yet Tacoma City Hall has gone gift-giving wild.
It started in early January with a frosted pink cupcake for City Councilwoman Lauren Walker.
“I wanted to wish you a happy birthday,” City Manager T.C. Broadnax told the blushing pol.
A week later, it was Joe Lonergan’s turn – only his birthday cupcake came draped in chocolate frosting.
“I like this new tradition,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland exclaimed.
The giver became the givee a week later when the council presented the city manager with a ribbon-tied box of oatmeal cookies from Margaret’s Café – his fave, or his name’s not T.C. “Tasty Cookies” Broadnax.
And thus it shall continue, until the council celebrates Ryan Mello’s birthday in December.
For the councilman’s gift, may we suggest a Thermos of black coffee and some taxi coupons?
We’re not as boozy as you think: The South Sound has had plenty of poobahs popped for DUIs in recent years – a Fife city councilman, the state schools superintendent and a Supreme Court justice, to name a few.
Here in Grit City, however, public honchos have rarely driven hammered and gotten nailed. (Ray Corpuz doesn’t count because he was a former city manager when busted in 2004.)
T-Town will never be known for teetotaling. But the fact is, before Ryan Mello’s recent arrest, you’d have to go back to the 1950s to find a sitting City Council member caught sloshed behind the wheel.
This was the era when Tacoma was branded “Seattle’s dirty back yard.” (Not any more. Today we are Seattle’s zombie quarantine area.)
And, oh, what a rip-roaring era it was, according to TNT clips from the ’50s: brothels, bingo hall raids, bootlegging, morals squads, the televised Rosellini vice hearings …
James Kerr proclaimed Tacoma was in the “grip of the underworld,” and said he was the man to loosen it. He was elected Tacoma city councilman/public safety commissioner in 1950.
The month he took office, Kerr was arrested for drunk driving while attending a conference in Walla Walla. He played coy when talking later to Tacoma cops: “I tell you fellows, I wasn’t really in jail over in Walla Walla. I was just making whoopee.”
(And given Walla Walla’s reputation at the time, there was plenty of whoopee to go around.)
A tale of two DUIS: By 1951, Kerr’s problems with the sauce led fellow council members to file impeachment charges. He resigned in January 1952, admitting he drank a lot and acted “rough and crude.” Still, he went down swinging, saying “the underworld already has its candidates picked out” to replace him.
Which brings us back to 2013 and Ryan Mello. He seems like a Cub Scout by comparison. His drunken-driving story is downright polite. Boring, even.
Former Mayor Bill Baarsma, who knows a thing or two million about local history and wrote his doctoral dissertation about city government, says Kerr and Mello are not alike.
“Ryan Mello is a good and decent person who has admitted to his mistake,” Double B said. “He is no Jim Kerr.”
That’s for sure. Kerr led a prostitution raid while riding on a hook-and-ladder truck. He got in a public shoving match with the city finance commissioner. He was accused of being drunk while behaving badly at a meeting – drunk while firing his fire chief – drunk while coercing policemen to serve as his personal chauffeurs.
Kerr was a bundle of contradictions who railed against the underworld but wasn’t above making whoopee. He was a headline-grabbing force of nature and a newspaperman’s dream.
“A little vice isn’t bad for any city,” Kerr once said.
We’ll drink to that.
Life’s good on Easy Street: NFL referees, preachers, Tacoma City Council members – they’re on the list of people associated with cushy one-day-a-week jobs.
Guess we should look in the mirror, too.
“Please tell me how I can get a job like ‘The Nose,’” writes Mikel Olsson of DuPont. “First, he or she only works one day a week. In spite of this, he or she has already had one week off during the first 4 weeks of January!”
Thanks for noticing, pal. But did you ever consider that Santa Claus works only one day a year? And even he calls in sick sometimes.
At least that’s how Mama Schnoz explained the Christmases of 1969, ’70 and ’72.Got news for The Nose? Write to TheNose@thenewstribune.com. Twitter: @thenosetribune