The Blue Raccoon

Saturday, September 22, 2007

.....About Last Night

Tragic-Comic Opera, the Seafarer by Paul Klee (1934) via

I doubt that when Paul Klee created this work that he could've imagined the metaphorical qualities fitting the political situation in Ruch'mun' Vee-ay. Here, the exquisite early autumn days have lapsed into late August soggy humidity and heat and I think the change of temperature--besides giving people sneezes and soar throats--has made RVA's political class go stupid. Illustrated here is the vainglorious giant fish slayer, as Hizzoner perceives of himself, poking in the eye with a sharp stick the School Board and anybody else who gets near his position of power.

The billion-eyed audience could care less about our municipal sturm und drang; however, I live here, and the events of Friday, September 21, 2007, reinforce my loving and loathing relationship with this, the city of my nativity. So in my tunnel of work, art, writing and Colonial Avenue I was unaware--and with a certain bliss that is often paired with ignorance--of the fracas at City Hall.

Assorted bloggers and bloggists have joined the howling, handwringing, and metaphorical wrenting of garments and pulling out of hair that accompanies these not infrequent city embarrassments. I in most cases agree with these befuddled and flabbergasted accountings of current events, so I don't devote much time to such topics at the Blue Raccoon. Most times, these days, politics whir above me like the sounds of cicadas along West of the Boulevard's bosky streets.

But this one, well, I can only provide some perspective.

Joy in the Streets

Before I knew any of this, I was at the New York Deli quaffing Legends and later finding my hips and knees shake and swerve to the inspired sounds of the House of Prayer brass band that visits Carytown, usually on Friday nights. More effective than any sermon, far more poetic than a corner exhortation by a sweaty-browed, hoarse-voiced zealot, these guys just make a joyful noise, including a version of Amazing Grace that had me singing like I hadn't since being in the Stockton Memorial Baptist choir. And never with such enthusiasm. Oh, billion-eyed audience, you'd have thought you were in New Orleans.

Unknown to me, across town the public celebration and unveiling of a reinvented portion of the River District/Shockoe a plaza was getting its ribbon-cutting. You can read of this here and here. I cannot speak to the feasibility or aesthetic quality of the space, I've not seen it, but if, like well-placed furniture, it ties together an otherwise fussy room, this sounds like a positive innovation within Richmond's cityscape.

While this design may be a good omen, the events which overshadowed it carry an internal sensation like this 1912 De Chirico painting, with the appropriate title, Enigma of the Hour.

Now, Richomnd's Governor-Mayor was in attendance and according to a news report, was seen "dancing with a blue glow stick around his head." Hey, I'm all in favor of elected officials getting into the spirit, but when contrasted with the train of events of this day and evening, his joyous behavior seemed more absurd than exuberant. Like, a kind of down-market Tony Soprano at a roisterous party while a hit was carried out against a cross-town rival.

A Few Easy Ways To Make Richmond Look Even More Ridiculous

From early afternoon, the Governor-Mayor's minions conducted a purge of City Hall. First , the Minister of Enlightenment declared that a "pattern of porn usage" had been uncovered throughout computers at City Hall. This followed a similar discovery by the city's internal fiscal coordinator that after hours, service and security personnel had run up thousands of dollars in calling phone sex lines. Which leads me to suggest, that while Virginia is for lovers, and visitors should live passionately, that Richmond's slogan should be "Me So Horny."

All City Council aides were instructed by the Governor-Mayor's plenipotentiary that they would need to set up interviews to determine if they could retain their jobs. Then, much later in the afternoon, the Minister of Enlightenment sends round an e-mail urging employees to scat and not come back until Monday morning. Police began to seal off the building although some members of Council and the School Board were permitted to enter.

Now, at this point, the Governor-Mayor was following the rule book for running a coup. Seize the communications, purge the dissenters, and make sure the constabulary is on your side. The Governor-Mayor and the School Board have been at loggerheads since day one, and matters haven't been made better by a group of private businesspeople (The Gang of 26) who want to return to an appointed School Board, rather than an elected one, a suggestion that was met--near as I can determine--by almost uniform apathy by all except for a few media and civitarian types. And bloggers.

The Governor-Mayor hasn't made any friends on the Board by insisting that they should move elsewhere, the pretext being they could save the city money by getting out of City Hall. And so, movers began packing up their offices from six floors of the Great Metal Waffle that is the sad example of the Richmond's City Hall. The School Board tried convening an emergency public meeting but neither the public nor media were allowed to attend, and police threatened journalists with arrest. The Board tried forming a rear-guard defense on the steps of City Hall, but all they could do was look impotent and flabbergasted. The Board commander couldn't persuade police to relent and allow the public in, which, last time I checked, is a Constitutional right. So the School Board members did what most city officials do when at a legal crossroads: they dispatched a runner to jostle awake Henry Marsh III.

Around midnight, a Richmond circuit court judge issued a temporary restraining order to prevent any more moving to be undertaken, and all the king's men had to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

It was like some kind of Gilbert and Sullivan (or the film Topsy-Turvy) meets banana republic government take-over. And to paraphrase James Branch Cabell, were it not so heart-breaking, it would be side-splitting.

And yet, overnight polling of Mr. and Mrs. Murgatroyd indicate that most television-watching Richmonders (who are probably in Henrico and Chesterfield counties) think it was a jolly good show, since all they care about is entertainment value, not actual functioning government.

What? No gun play?

So this morning I am preambulating past the new Tom & Jerry's ice cream store, when I see this headline: "Chaos erupts at City Hall -- Wilder alleges porn link to Pantele's computer--City evictsd school officials; police ban public from meeting."
So, no shots were fired, except cheap ones, and no harm done except to bruised egos and the backs of movers. A long-standing feud between Council President Pantele--really, almost all of Council-- and the Governor-Mayor has become ugly and personal, and now that the "porn" word has shown up in proximity to an elected official's name, my guess there'll be calls for prayer breakfasts, FBI investigations and televised hearings on QVC.

Billion-eyed audience, the political forecast for Richmond for the next several months is, I predict, storms with subpoena-sized law suits. The affronted School Board, the insulted President of Council, and heck, I think the whole city should engage in a class action suit against the Governor Mayor. Just for drama, you understand.

Frankly, I think there's only one savior possible for the City of Richmond, Virginia. And here she is:

Leeloo, from the Fifth Element, or, more to the point, in this version:

Yup, she swaggers into town, and all this unpleasantness will just go away in bloody ribbons because she's armed and fabulous. Can you not see it? She bursts into the Governor-Mayor's office, assumes a martial pose and announces, "Hey Gov, don't look now, but it's Milla Time."

But, more of her, anon.

What Price Democracy?

Meanwhile, on B-2 of the morning paper, Governor Tim Kaine was reported as having addressed the 2007 National Federation of Press Women and said that when his term expires in 2010, he may not seek another public office. He voiced concerns about seeking elective office, among them low voter turn out, public scrutiny, time away from family and the sheer expense of campaigning.

"The price of elections is high enough that it excludes an awful lot of good people who might otherwise run for public office. It may not be unconstitutional, but it has the same kind of effect."

A-men brother, a-men.

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At 6:30 AM, Blogger HEK said...

Thank you, Anon, for whatever reason that you stumbled into my dusty corner of the Interwebs. I need to crank start this blog but life/work and other writing keeps me otherwise busy.


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