Councilman Dan Coffey (heatedly, finger wagging): “Jack, I’ll put my business knowledge up against yours any day.”
Councilman Jack Messer (shrugging): “You’re a lawyer, then you’re an engineer; I just can’t keep up.”
With little business on the agenda for last evening’s city council meeting, and neither the right hand-picked crowd on hand nor a truly suitable opportunity to engage in the sort of self-aggrandstanding that forms the prime reason for the Conjoined Councilmen’s political existence, Dan Coffey and Steve Price were faced with a vexing dilemma.
Go quietly into the night and let others do the same, or waste more precious legislative moments rehearsing their respective routines for use during next year’s pivotal election campaign.
Accordingly, both reverted to shuck ‘n’ jive stereotypes bare moments following the overture, and the predictable result was a moderately entertaining spectacle that nonetheless reminded observers that you simply can’t craft silk accessories from rock salt, place your pet ferret in the control chair down at the nuclear power plant, or get all the way through a council meeting without a malevolent floor show.
The Conjoined Councilmen’s roles are distinct, yet complementary. Both evidently derive their personas from deep and largely undisguised reservoirs of anger, frustration and annoyance with a modern world that won’t slow down long enough for them to catch up, but their respective approaches to airing their grievances are different.
As anyone who has spent five minutes at a city council meeting will attest, CM Coffey almost always plays the braggart first, and when, inevitably, he isn’t taken seriously by people who always know better, he becomes the gesticulating, posturing bully. His sense of irony is so woefully underdeveloped that he has no more use for the reflective qualities of a bathroom mirror than your garden variety vampire, although at least the latter comes by his invisibility honestly.
During the course of the past three years, we have listened to CM Coffey publicly state that he knows more about construction than builders, more about drainage than flood control specialists, more about the legal code than lawyers … and the list continues, ad nauseam, as was the case Monday night when CM Coffey was unable to produce a single specific example of a corrupted TIF zone to justify his calculated personal criticism of Redevelopment Director John Rosenbarger.
Meanwhile, amid the incessant bluster, there has yet to be offered substantive proof that any of these wide-ranging skills on the part of the councilman exist outside his own eternally insecure and confrontational character.
CM Price, however, is increasingly willing to assume the role of the shambolic court jester. Whether intentionally mispronouncing Rosenbarger’s name in the fashion of a junior high school slight, or struggling to comprehend simple mathematical explanations desperately offered him by friend and foe alike in an effort to spare him from steadily compounding embarrassment, CM Price has now pole vaulted past the point of self-parody, belly-flopping instead into a bubbling tub of bile and bathos.
Amazingly, last evening’s meeting found CM Price professing his inability to fathom the type of average salaries that are paid to college graduates in numerous fields in all sectors of the American economy – all of whom know far less about their professions than CM Coffey – and concluding plaintively that this slowness and incomprehension is to be expected because CM Price comes “from the poor side of town.”
Unfortunately, Price neglected to close his remarks with a syncopation of the quaint “Do-doo-doo-wah shoo-bee-doo-bees” that are a timeless hallmark of Johnny Rivers’s 1966 chart topper, from which the councilman pinched his pitiful punch line – itself surely destined to become the councilman’s sole flag-draped platform slogan during the forthcoming 3rd district campaign.
“Poor like you and keeping it that way. Vote Price.”
In turn, CM Price’s rough hewn log cabin hardscrabble childhood poverty reference unintentionally shines a considerable spotlight on perhaps the most enduring feature of his narrow political worldview, one shared by CM Coffey:
There’s only one pie. It is the same size now and always. We can do nothing to increase our personal share by making it bigger. Therefore, it is futile to even try. Gimme back my taxes.
Ultimately the political, social and cultural gospel of Steve Price can be summarized in far fewer words than the councilman customarily expends to explain why he, like fellow Luddite Coffey, neither understands the modern world nor intends to try any time soon.
I disagree, and emphatically so. Perhaps Steve and Dan can’t, but we can, and we will.
As time goes by, the Conjoined Councilmen’s act is wearing increasingly thin, and even the dyspeptic duo seem to be sensing a changed landscape. They’re punching wildly at targets that no longer exist, as CM Price did last night with three separate, obviously embittered jabs at Scribner Place. They’re flailing at shadows, as CM Coffey, in a chillingly McCarthyesque turn, did while insisting that the necessary information could be found on a list that no one produced.
Anyone seen those garlic cloves I had wrapped in the council agenda?