It is lonely at the top of city government in Pleasant Grove. Month after month, the six hardy souls elected by residents to run city affairs meet to decide how to spend tax revenues, how to allow development to progress in the city and what to do about problems of one kind or another.
I say it's lonely because, invariably, the council performs its duties under the attentive gaze of an average of four people: three representatives of the media, and Doug Bezzant, city building inspector. Occasionally a troop of Boy Scouts joins the biweekly proceedings, but they usually don't stay for long.That the council feels lonely is evident in that Mayor David Holdaway has taken to greeting members of the media by name at the start of each meeting; he says things such as "There's Marcella (Marcella Walker, reporter for the Pleasant Grove Review), and I see John's here (John Best, reporter for The Daily Herald), and I'm glad to see Brooke again" (yours truly, reporter for the very paper you are holding in your hands). I almost feel he has a magic mirror like that lady on Romper Room used to see all us kiddies out in television land.
Also, whenever any members of the public do attend council meetings (it has happened twice during the past six months) Holdaway is sure they are up to something. It is somehow shocking that someone would actually attend a Pleasant Grove Council meeting just to see what goes on. At some point in the meeting, he'll stop the proceedings and ask the visitors if they have something they'd like to say to the council. They never do.
Just the other night, Holdaway asked a woman who had sat through most of the meeting if there was something the council could do for her. The woman told him she was "just waiting to talk to someone else after the meeting."
Don't take it personally, mayor.
I have noticed that other governmental bodies have found a way to avoid being lonely while performing their duties. I think the Pleasant Grove Council might be able to adopt some of their tactics.
American Fork, for instance, has found it beneficial on several occasions to invite the entire city library board and library staff to meetings. It is helpful to include something about the library on the agenda, even if it is only that the library has subscribed to a new newspaper - the Deseret News, for instance.
Lehi is in the process of implementing a new pressurized irrigation system. Cleverly, the Lehi Council has made the consequences of signing up for the system confusing enough that they have had to hold public hearings on the matter during regular council meetings for months. The time may be right for the Pleasant Grove Council to think up a huge public works project that will affect every household in the city. Just remember to keep the project sufficiently confusing. For example, how about requiring every home in the city to have a tree planted in its front yard. Just don't say why or what kind of tree.
The Utah County Commission has gone to extensive measures to prevent loneliness. Somehow, the other two commissioners convinced Commissioner Brent Morris that, in the name of loneliness prevention, he should become an environmental champion and denounce Geneva Steel's contributions to air quality problems in the county. It worked - phone calls poured into the county offices about Morris' comments; editorials in local papers have been devoted to Morris' comments; groups of women have gone to the governor about Morris' comments. I doubt Morris or the rest of the commissioners have felt lonely during the past several months. The Pleasant Grove Council might want to consider persuading a member, Keith Christeson, for example, to become a champion of something - like requiring the County Commission to move back into the County Courthouse since they blew the opportunity to keep the 4th District courts there. It's just an idea.
Even at the congressional level, efforts are made to prevent loneliness.
Most recently, Congress acted as though it were going to give its members a 50 percent pay raise. Of course, members of Congress never really intended to follow through with the raise. They just wanted to make sure they weren't lonely. It was a beautiful ploy. We all took the bait hook, line and sinker - calling our representatives all sorts of vile names, sending them millions of letters and spending evenings talking with our neighbors about the audacity of Congress.
Congress was just kidding, of course; they voted down the raise.
Utah County Attorney Steve Killpack tried the same tactic just recently when he told the County Commission he needed a raise. Steve is no longer a lonely guy. He is also no longer asking for a raise.
The Pleasant Grove Council might want to consider horsing around with an issue. They could pretend they were going to increase city employee salaries by 150 percent, for example. Or they could pretend they were going to place a surcharge of $1,000 on every man, woman and child in the city in order to build a brand, spanking new fire station. Then, they could place the issue on the agenda for discussion for about six months. Council meetings would be packed. Loneliness would be a thing of the past. And the council members would become local heroes when they voted unanimously not to do whatever it was they had decided to do. (However, to keep things really interesting, take the vote by roll call and get two members of the council to vote for the issue: Bill West and Lloyd Ash, perhaps. The suspense will be awesome.)
Well, there you have it - a few loneliness prevention tips from the experts. Hope they help, Mayor Holdaway.