Friday, November 18, 2005

Condo meeting diary

I was fortunate enough to know someone who spent their entire Wednesday night (and some of Thursday morning) at the train wreck of a Benton County Planning meeting. She had to be there and stay to the end, so she decided to amuse herself by keeping a running journal on the nights events. Check it out below. Funny stuff, whether you give a rip about the condos, the terrible planning commissioners, or running diaries.

I would preface it by saying this: My only complaint about the people who organized the opposition to the condos made some strategic mistakes. Rather than just claiming that high-rise buildings weren't compatible with the environment, and putting all their eggs in one basket, they repeatedly went after sewage, runoff, noise pollution, etc... So at some of the meetings where people were getting up and voicing their complaints with the condos, the complaints started getting quite, uh, interesting. (Especially when the planning board tried to limit comments to new old complaints got recycled into much more interesting versions of the same thing.)

One lady comes to mind who claimed that rich people in the condos would use more prescription drugs and those would end up in the water, resulting in, as she said, "some sort of loss of life."


5:30 p.m. 
I have just gulped down a 16-ounce Cafe Americano in preparation for what is sure to be a long meeting of the Benton County Planning Board.

5:56 p.m.
There is a woman here who does not want a particular development to be expanded near her house. She keeps calling the development a “sore eye.” Every time I hear it, I get tickled. I think she means “eyesore.”

6:10 p.m.
Looking straight ahead, I can see on each side of my peripheral vision, a man wearing overalls. That’s two pairs of overalls with one look. One pair is even striped like train engineer’s. Technically the man is an engineer, just not a train engineer. Not that I know of, anyway. He’s got the pants legs rolled up, too. Very cool.

7:02 p.m. 
Five minute recess

7:14 p.m. 
Five minute recess over

7:17 p.m. 
Sweet! Item No. 9 was tabled without discussion. Moving on to No. 10.

7:20 p.m.
Doh! That guy didn’t send notifications to adjoining property owners. Moving on to No. 11.

7:29 p.m.
One minute until dinner break. 

7:30 p.m.
Okay, maybe there’s no dinner break.

7:37 p.m.
Now there is an old lady talking in elderese, which is really trying my patience. 
“There are some leaves in the gutter that my husband hasn’t been able to clean, so we’ll have to get somebody to that so that’s one of my concerns, and that’s pretty much all I have to say.”  I have no idea what leaves in her gutter have to do with B&D Storage.

8:00 p.m.
Things are getting good now. This guy brought in some Little Debbie barrels (I have no idea what those are) onto his property to use as septic tanks. People are pissed!

9:22 p.m.
Noticed they have some hot dogs here. A girl that works in the planning office slipped me one for free. Amazing how Americans can turn nearly anything into an opportunity to eat hot dogs. What is this? A baseball game? Don’t get me wrong, I love hot dogs. That one was especially good.

9:30 p.m. 
We’re hearing public comment about the condos now. I am sitting way in the back instead of way in the front. 

9:33 p.m.
A woman just walked back to get a hot dog. Ha! They made her pay. No wait, she got a Little Debbie. Weird, that’s the second reference to Little Debbie tonight. 

9:35 p.m.
Painted on the wall here at Washington Junior High is “I will act as if what I do Makes A Difference” in huge black letters. To me, that sounds like “I know that what I do will never make a difference, but I will act like it will anyway.”  I think that must be the motto of the opponents to the condominiums. 

9:41 p.m.
OMG, this man just walked by in a janitor suit and camouflage jacket and said to me, “I get cheap pop. Fifty cents a can.” He held up his Dr. Pepper to show me. I didn’t tell him that I just got mine for free.

9:53 p.m.
OMG, a guy just made a reference to a quote painted on the wall here. Not the one I mentioned earlier. His was “The choices you make today will shape your world tomorrow.” He is asking that the planning board consider that very closely. As if that’s going to change their minds.

10:05 p.m.
Things just got out of hand. Someone in the back of the room called somebody else a jerk. Mudslinging was about to begin, but the chairman told everyone (150 people) in her best teacher voice to act like grown adults. It worked!

10:21 p.m.
I just want to say that I am proud of the Regular Joes who are getting up to express their views. There is this man speaking now who has a speech impediment, but his words are very passionate. He’s not an expert, just a regular guy. Ooh, here’s another regular guy. This one is wearing suspenders and a plaid flannel shirt. He just said E. Collie. He meant E. Coli, with a long “o” and “I”.

11:10 p.m.
Great Quote #1: “Maybe there’s a guy trotlinin’ in your backyard and he buys a spot light that’s a little bit brighter than he is.” 

11:22 p.m.
A guy just said something about Missouri and Arkansas, but he pronounced Missouri like “misery” and Arkansas with “sass” at the end. Somehow that lessens his argument, I think.

12:24 a.m.
Five-minute recess following a tie vote

12:52 a.m.
New vote, condos approved

1:11 a.m.
Most of the people have left now. There are still maybe 50 people here. Probably about 150 went home. They are so lucky. So very lucky. 

1:30 a.m.
My personal belongings are strewn all over this auditorium. I can see my coat...wait, big news...

1:36 a.m.
One board member down. He said he’s tired and going home. Take me with you!

1:51 a.m.
This is completely ridiculous. I want to go home, but I need the information. Plus, I don’t want this meeting to beat me. If these other 50 or so people can endure it, so can I. Right? 

Time Unknown
Great Quote #2: “Four years ago I didn’t have as much metal in my neck or I would begin to think it was me.” 

2:08 a.m.
Someone just said “Once you let this genie out of the bottle, you can’t put it back.” That’s really just a variation of the “shape your tomorrow” quote.

2:15 a.m.
Great Quote #3” “The quarry is to compatibility as the whale is to Jonah. They have tried to add another strip to the zebra in having us come back here again, but it’s still a zebra.”  That was a two-for-one animal quote. Nice.

2:17 a.m.
Joe is going to get me a soda. I don’t really like Pepsi but the one I had a couple of hours ago wasn’t so bad.

2:19 a.m.
Some guy is up there talking about how a quarry cracked the foundation of his church. Now he says this is a spiritual thing. Something about good and evil.  Bible Quote #1: “Also know that the word says that no weapon formed against us will prosper.”  I guess limestone quarries are evil. Leave it up to folks to Siloam Springs to turn to the Bible to try to keep a limestone quarry from being approved. 

2:21 a.m.
Someone just turned to me and said, “he basically just called (the person who wants to put in the quarry) Satan.” 

2:25 a.m.
Joe’s back. The Pepsi is soooo good.

2:53 a.m.
Well, the school kids should be getting here soon.

3:24 a.m.
The meeting is over. Finally. People are yelling at the board members. And I could care less. I’m going home.