Greetings, Pierceland! Surely you spotted the fireworks display that went off this week at the county-city building.
Your newest County Council member, Pam Roach, lit the fuse during a morning meeting of the something-or-other committee she chairs. Her problem was fellow council member Rick Talbert, who managed to squeeze out four offensive words — “We have our rules” — before Pam decided it was time for him to shut up.
Gavel-banging ensued as Talbert kept trying to talk. Roach waved her little wooden hammer for emphasis, declaring, “I am the chair,” a phrase of terrifying power, especially when repeated five times. When that didn’t work, she ordered a quaking staffer to shut off all the microphones during a public meeting broadcast on live TV.
The subsequent three minutes played like a real-time violation of the state’s open meetings law, or if you prefer cinematic similes, a silent movie without the jokes, though Roach’s lips continued to move.
Eventually, the audio kicked in again. After being told no one heard her, Roach repeated what she said during the three-minute silence, in a shorter version. Something about those annoying touch-screen gizmos council members use, which she doesn’t like, and which aren’t needed (so she said) in Olympia, where she served for 26 years, and ... zzzzz.
She later told Your Fishwrap that she didn’t realize her own microphone was off, which was sort of weird, since she was the one who gave the order to cut the sound in the first place.
Oddly enough, it makes a certain kind of sense. Anyone familiar with Pistol Pam would have to concede that she’s not the silent type.
Your Uncle Sniff has a theory: Pam didn’t say what she meant. She didn’t want her own voice silenced — not at all! But everyone else needed to zip it.
According to the grapevine, Pam’s first few weeks in office have been marked by ceaseless references to How Things Are Done in Olympia, apparently the source of all wisdom and correct procedure.
The locals are getting weary of that refrain, much as baseball stat freaks tire of old-school experts blathering about decisions made by gut instinct instead of numbers. Plus, let’s face it: When a committee chair in Olympia gavel-bangs and says “You’re out of order,” it’s usually code for, “Shut your yapper! Disagreeing with me is forbidden.”
Still, Roach hasn’t lost her knack for getting attention. An old political joke runs like this: “What’s the most dangerous place in (political locale)?”
The answer: “Between (publicity-seeking pol) and a camera.”
For the past six years in Pierceland, the answer to the punchline has been Your Prosecutor, Mark Lindquist. But for more years in Olympia, the answer was Roach. Looks like we’ve got a new contender in town. Start filling out the bracket!
Rubber-stamp city: Meanwhile, in Tacomaland, all is bliss and harmony. The City Council, filling the vacancy left by Victoria Woodards, who resigned last month to run for mayor, chose a fresh new face this week: former Councilwoman Lauren Walker.
Wait — double-take — who?
See, after Woodards resigned, a whopping 55 people applied for the vacant slot in the play group, subjecting themselves to the scrutiny of council members.
One of the factors members considered was political, as in whether the newbie would formally run for office after serving out the remainder of the term that ends this year. Some members wanted someone who wouldn’t run. Others said it didn’t matter.
The members said they wanted other stuff, including adding a voice that lacked political access. They said they wanted diversity, too: demographic and geographic. Take a look if you don’t remember. This was Councilman Ryan Mello, two weeks ago:
“I may want to give someone that experience that I think doesn’t have the resources to run or (doesn’t) come from privilege or power, or access to power to run. I think that might be a very good thing in order to fill out the diversity of perspective for this council.”
A week ago, with the list of applicants whittled down to eight, council members made the same noises:
“Councilmen Joe Lonergan, Robert Thoms, Anders Ibsen and Marty Campbell said they were looking for more female representation on the council, and ethnic and geographic diversity. They also were seeking diversity of experience, the committee members said.”
Aha! Given that clear commitment, you would have expected the council members to follow through and choose someone without access to power, someone providing, you know, ethnic and geographic diversity.
So naturally, they picked Walker, who served on the council from 2007 to 2015, and knows everybody at City Hall. Hey, The Sniff’s not knocking her — she knows her stuff, and she’s a cool hand. But it’s a safe bet she won’t make any waves with existing council members, as if you didn’t know.
Yeah, yeah — trot out the gripe. You media types are never satisfied! Just look at the first item in this column! When pols fight too much in public, we tell them to play nice. When they place too nice, we tell them to fight. Punditry is hard!
Forget all that stuff. Maybe it’s not the harmony or disharmony that’s the issue in City Council chambers. Maybe it’s just candor. Seriously, council members — if you were going to pick your old pal all along, why blow all the rhetorical smoke in the first place?