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As Long as We Remember...

August 7, 2002

Polling Broadway on Rules of Disengagement

Lee Marshall

A journalist must always use caution in writing about public figures, especially those who say and do things in public that besmirch the high reputation of elected leaders. Therefore, in search of journalistic fairness, we decided to poll a sampling of citizens on Broadway to see if they understand why there is so much hormonal imbalance in Silly Hall these days.

The rules of engagement for the unscientific poll include understanding that we elect non-professionals to public office. There is no real school to teach them how to be effective legislators. That is obvious as the lessons are revealed by their mistakes - this doesn't mean they learn from those missteps.

We also understand the residents of Silly Hall are human with all the potential foibles of men (testosterone) and women (estrogen and progesterone). In the heat of battle, they might blurt out the wrong words and you can't take them back. These words might appear and the speaker not understand why - that's what hormones do.

Our current crop of leaders has been trained in the inner circle of their party central committees, Parent-Teacher Association boards, appointed city and county boards, and have been marriage partners and parents. Some of them know the term "Roberts' Rules of Order," but few have actually seen that bible of parliamentary procedure.

Some have confused "Roberts" with the Marquis of Queensbury Rules, which was devised to give a gentleman's approach to fisticuffs. The Marquis of Queensbury relegates women to "looking good" at the Friday Night Fights, which isn't all bad from a testosterone point of view.

There was no agreement among respondents supporting Aldermen Bill Hall and Dave "Lionheart" on the newly passed rule that The Ever Lovin' Mare will call on aldermen to speak. They are wary of the power she has shown she can wield. But "Roberts'" basic rule is that someone must be in charge and The Ever Lovin' Mare should have that power to run the meeting and have it meet the 11 p.m. deadline. Aldermen can always call a point of order to have themselves heard.

We can't fault The Ever Lovin' Mare, who appears to have her public face on now and attempting to use a more formal approach and fewer snide remarks. She does have a challenge with two aldermen named Hall, one a friend and the other an obvious opponent. The Ever Lovin' Mare is a smart lady, and despite Bill Hall's complaints, she is in charge. She is the mare, the executioner.

Respondents recommended The Ever Lovin' Mare get better glasses for television. They said the half glasses on the tip of her nose gave her an appearance of disdain and recommended a lorgnette as being more estimable for someone of her stature in the old courtroom.

Our poll showed respondents on both ends of the scale on the Mare and pretty upset at Mr. Hall's frustrated responses. They had hopes for Mr. Hall surviving and learning from his mistakes. They had no real opinion on Alderman Joe Baldi; they liked Alderman Lionheart, were puzzled by Alderman Oh, Donna Ramsburg and didn't recognize the name Marcia Hall as an alderman.

Interestingly, many respondents agreed with the appellation "Little Orphan of the Storm" as applied to Marcia. They remembered the silent movie serials with Mary Pickford; the sad face, the helpless comments, the need for a hug.

The unscientific poll, with hardly an error rate, showed respondents were confused by Oh, Donna with her "good girl, bad girl" approach to legislation. They were as confused as she about her random comments and being "misquoted, not by Steve" of the Daily Bugle. Respondents couldn't match up her words with her votes.

Respondents also were unanimous that it's the boys against the girls in Silly Hall, but kept a low opinion of the bureaucratic staffers. Yes, they said, there is too much estrogen, and Clorox is not the answer. That hormone reacts badly with testosterone when there are confused lines of power.

Respondents though, said their top candidate for possessor of the most confused hormones title fell into the lap of City Chief of Legal Services Heather Smith.

(It should be noted that from now on we refuse to use any hyphenated names. Oh, Donna earns a "thumbs up" in that battle, because no one can remember her name now that she has remarried. It's RAMSBURG, not "E-R-G," and not Kuzemchak or Kuzemchuk.)

We've had personal misgivings about MizSmif for some time and our respondents agreed without dissent that she is the Queen of the Maven, at least for this fiscal quarter.

In the comment section of our poll, respondents expressed their own fears about being unfair to MizSmif, who like most lawyers can lay claim to being above the law, especially the social restraints of a time gone by.

Our sample survey revealed that any doubts were allayed when MizSmif rebuked Alderman Lionheart in his quest with the rest of the board to clarify language on the strange set of rules The Ever Lovin' Mare and MizSmif say is "required by city charter."

First of all, MizSmif asked if anyone had a copy of the charter, because she had not come prepared. The Ever Lovin' Mare produced a copy, then MizSmif went back to her seat and began glowering, telling Mr. Lionheart in so many words that he had every opportunity to look at the documents and that she didn't have the inclination, nor the time to waste on his unreasonable request.

That brought rebukes from Alderman Bill Hall, who noted that Mr. Lionheart and the board could take 12 hours to go over the document if desired and that MizSmif would have to put up with it. She owed Mr. Lionheart an apology, he insisted, and needed to understand who worked for whom. Interestingly, nodded agreement came from Oh, Donna. The mayor sat in embarrassed silence.

Later, members of the audience remarked during "Public Comment" that MizSmif was way out of line and owed an apology to Mr. Lionheart, who admitted he had to take control of himself in the situation, to say his own private prayer, in order not to say what he should have said.

Mr. Lionheart should have immediately called her on the carpet, insisting that she have due respect for the elected members of the board of alderman, who are chartered to give advice and consent on the hiring and firing of staffers like MizSmif. He should have demanded the Ever Lovin' Mare also chastise this impetuous barrister, even to the point of giving official reprimand.

Later, MizSmif complained to a citizen that she had not done as she was accused (as above), when in fact she did that. Everyone heard and understood the tone, the tenor and the full meaning of her outburst. So did Mr. Lionheart, but he's a gentleman and she displayed no ladylike qualities at that moment.

Respondents opined whether the rules of engagement, now enacted, will be enough to control MizSmif and her outbursts. Most of all, they hoped she would attend the meetings better prepared, not only to have a copy of the city charter, but a copy of Roberts' Rules, which the city can order on line from Barnes & Noble and receive within 48 hours.

After taking the poll, feeding the parking meter, doing all the mathematical calculations and proving them statistically significant, we decided the results would have been obvious without doing all the work. However, once again we showed our journalistic integrity. No lite beer this evening; it's Heineken, a good cigar and Clint Eastwood (Heartbreak Ridge).

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