Presidential politics are what get the fires going these days, but boring ol’ city council meetings are actually a lot more interesting.
Yep. Hear me out. From explosions to high-dives, the issues that matter to us are front-and-center at your local city Hall.
Last Tuesday I found myself at the Centralia City Council meeting. The place was jam packed. Standing room only. It was a cross-section of our community that you rarely see, and a chance to seek ideas for solving problems that really hit home.
All seven council members were seated up front. They listened. They spoke up about their own priorities and hopes for the city we all share.
Citizens got up to speak about what’s on their minds. It was a portrait in miniature of the life we all lead together — how we all try to get along and live with each other. And isn’t that what our civic life is really all about?
Mostly, what people wanted to talk about was fireworks. LOUD fireworks. Ten days of them, morning until midnight.
They described an artillery barrage.
“It sounded like the enemy is attacking,” especially on July 4, several of them said. One woman said she finally fled with her dog in her car and drove to Walmart, where she parked behind the building to finally get some sleep.
Several people addressed the homelessness issue.
Steve Kopa, who has led more than 50 garbage pickup days over recent years, described the many tons of garbage that he and other volunteers have picked up. He asked the city for more blue garbage bags emblazoned with the city’s logo. Those bags, sitting beside the freeway from the Saturday cleanup until Monday garbage pickup, will tell the thousands of passers-by that this is a city whose residents have pride and do their part to keep the city clean, Kopa said.
He also asked the council for permission to again hold a cruise through downtown Centralia during this summer’s car show.
It’s a reasonable, popular request — and the fact that Kopa puts his time and money where his mouth is, serving his city by leading ongoing cleanup efforts, certainly can’t hurt the chances of his request being approved.
When Kopa stood up after his remarks, everyone in the room applauded his work. How about that for civic support?
That’s what struck me the most. Most of us have something we’d like to see improved, and all of us have something we can contribute. When those things come together on the local level, that’s where our common life gets better.
The most contentious issue of the evening, perhaps, was a proposal to put a tax measure on the ballot to rebuild the Pearl Street pool. Supporters and opponents of the proposal were both in full evidence at the meeting.
The council decided not to move forward with the tax ballot measure right now, after supporters of the pool said revised cost estimates show that remodel work will require less money.
As a Chehalis-area resident, it’s an issue that wouldn’t directly affect my pocketbook or my local pool, but it does seem relevant to me. I write this column at 6:30 a.m., sitting in a lawn chair in front of the Chehalis pool (the Gail & Carolyn Shaw Aquatic Center, to be precise).
The first person in line arrived at 5 a.m. on this Friday morning to ensure she could guarantee a spot in lessons for her kids.
There were at least 100 people in line by the time the doors opened at 7 a.m.
“I joked last time I would hold my spot and sell it on Craigslist,” a woman next to me said.
Chehalis does a great job with their pool. They could easily fill twice the number of swimming lesson slots they have open. It’s common to see their open swim times completely full.
I chatted with people from Oakville and Centralia who bypass the Thorbecke’s pool because they want to do lessons outdoors.
Chehalis is blessed with a deep bench of deep-pocket donors who made their pool a reality. Centralia’s pool has support, but so far hasn’t found enough donations to get them across the finish line. Whether to ask voters to increase their taxes for the pool, and by how much, is the question for now in the Hub City.
It’s a question that will come before the folks of City Hall again.
You can tell Brian Mittge to go jump in the pool. He loves to swim. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.