September 27, 2007

Here's What Is Really Behind the Power Struggle in Northfield's City Hall

Recently, in Northfield, Minnesota, the city government has all but shoved its collective head up its collective asshole.

The consensus appears to be that a power struggle between the mayor and city administrator has morphed city priorities from vaguely self-aggrandizing back-patting to blatantly self-aggrandizing bitch-slapping.

To the common man, the power struggle seems to originate in the administrator's gentlemanly rebuff of the mayor's polite request to consider relocating a municipal liquor store on land that, as a mere coincidence, the mayor owns.
I am not a common man, however.

I would guess that the liquor store kerfuffle is only the safest issue that can be presented to the public. There are deeper divisions at play.

Indeed, I smell a rat.

A stinky rat on a horse of a different color marching to a different drummer past a little match girl freezing in the street who has nothing whatsoever to do with this metaphor.

Some other disputes have forced this hapless grappling on the citizen-victims of Northfield.

So what is really behind the power struggle among Northfield's leaders? My extensive, pretend research has uncovered these disturbing facts.

1. The "Tie Incident". On the cold morning of January 18, 2007, both the mayor and city administrator arrived at work to find, much to their great embarrassment, that they were wearing identical ties. This fashion faux pas was even more noticeable given the fact that both men were wearing nothing else; so the tie was one thing that really stood out on each of them.

2. Drapes. The color, pattern, length, opacity, fabric... so many options, so much for city officials to choose from. Disputes on finding exactly the right draperies for government offices have brought down governments and monarchies with bitter partisan rancor and infighting for millennia. Northfield appears to be yet another sorry casualty.

3. The Erasers. The mayor always gets to clean the erasers after planning meetings. A peculiarity of the "strong mayor" model of city governance, this has irked city administrators for many years, made especially worse by the mayor's increased taunting of others while executing this duty. He loudly chants in time with the clapping of the erasers: "I'mmmm... Cleeee... Ninnnng... Theee... Eeee... Rayyy... Serssss... And... Youuu... Don't... Get... Toooooo...." (repeat often)

4. The New Girl. She's cute. Really cute. Who will get her attention the most? Who will win her affection? Whose ordinances will she most admire? Who gets to sit next to her during meetings? Once again, it seems a rock-solid friendship has been rent asunder by competing for the attentions of a pretty lass.

5. The Monkey. The mayor objected to the administrator's habit of bringing his primate pal, Captain ZiZi, into the office to start each work week. The administrator insisted that "Monkey Mondays" stimulate employee morale and productivity; the mayor countered that they only stimulate the presence of monkey shit on his shoes. The mayor's unilateral move to force through a measure against tropical pets in city buildings has, understandably, been taken as a personal attack by the administrator and Captain ZiZi, who, as of press time, is reportedly storing up a sizable "revenge stool" in his lower colon.

6. Deep-Seated Philosophical Differences. For example, the city administrator always suggests massage circles as a way to resolve conflict; the mayor believes massage should only be used as an ice-breaker. The stand-off lingers.

7. Consultant Reports. Should they be spiral-bound or merely three-hole punched and stapled? Think about it: Spiral-bound? Three-hole punched? Is there a compromise? How do you repair the wounds of time? Needless to say, this will take a long while to work out.

8. Bowling Match, March 14, 2007. What was originally intended as a good-natured outing to help the two feuding leaders connect in a non-threatening way outside of work quickly disintegrated into an ascending series of accusations about whose toe went over the line and when. Despite attending staffers resolving the issue by arranging for a consensual tie with matching scores of a "Gentleman's 301", the end result felt hollow. Tensions have remained very high ever since.

9. Pact with Satan. Apparently, they should not have entered into this arrangement without first consulting outside counsel. Turns out, there was a downside in the fine print that neither man read.

10. Linguistic / Viral Difficulties. The administrator has questioned the mayor's truthfulness concerning his health. The mayor claims he has been suffering from a bad cold for months; the administrator wonders why the cold only manifests itself whenever the administrator is addressing the city council. The administrator further wonders why the "bad cold" only ever manifests itself as sneezing and coughing which sounds suspiciously like someone saying "bullshit" in a disguised manner. The mayor insists the administrator is paranoid, and counters that he could be innocently saying "push it" as he sneezes or coughs.

11. Pissing Contest. During this April's "Piss-Off 2007", the mayor accused the administrator of using a patsy in the city's engineering department to manipulate the ventilation system in the men's room when it was the administrator's turn, thereby allowing the administrator's urine to travel further than the mayor's had, and handing the administrator the victory. The allegation is hotly denied. They mayor has taken his case to court. The fate of the Golden Specimen Cup 2007 hangs in legal limbo.


Unknown said...

12. Municipal Liquor Store/Captain ZiZi Affair. The administrator was close to brokering a deal on the location of the store on the mayor's land, but that fell through when he insisted that Captain ZiZi be the official greeter. The mayor balked. Then the mayor found piles of monkey feces spelling out the monkey's resume on the mayors land. The issue is at logger heads.

Jim H. said...


The monkey incident is very reminiscent of the mayor's sister's monkey in "A Short History of a Small Place" by T. R. Pearson. It's one of my favorite books, with one of the all-time most hilarious courtroom scenes, in which a resident is suing the mayor because the mayor's sister's monkey urinated on the resident's shirt.

I am sure you would enjoy the book. In fact, I'd loan it to you if I didn't have a personal policy of not loaning books for any reason to anybody.

Also: kerfuffle! Is there a more perfect word in the English language?

Jim H. said...

Patsy in Engineering -- isn't she the same pretty new girl over which the two were jousting earlier? I guess we know who won that little contest.

Also: "hapless grappling" pretty mush describes the feeling I get in the voting booth.

Brendon Etter said...

That's "patsy" with a small 'p', man... as in a duped underling.

Unfortunately, Patsys the world over have, for years, been accused of being patsies simply because of the name.

I read "A Short History of a Small Place" about 15 years ago, I think. I honestly remember nothing about it, but, maybe subconsciously, mayors and monkeys are connected in my mind because of that book.

Although monkeys are generally solid gold in terms of comic tropes; doubly so if they have odd but cutesy names.

I read another of Pearson's books at the time, but don't know which one.

I still have them somewhere on my shelves.

Henry - Captain ZiZi is a nasty mo-fo. Do not tangle wit'm.

Unknown said...

Whoever is standing at the crossroads at midnight waiting to have his or her guitar tuned is guilty... least of intent.

Unknown said...

Or standing at The Crossing? Is this development one more bone of contention between the two principles here?

Maybe Captain ZiZi can give some masssages; bring everyone down from the battlements for a spell.

Christopher Tassava said...

A great list (and a good place for me to dip back into the stream of Better consciousness - where you been, man?). My non-funny addition:

13. A juvenile cocktail of unprofessionalism and near-incompetence.

Anonymous said...

To find out where Bleeet has been lately- come see Glengarry Glen Ross at the NAG- opening Oct 5th.

-Mrs. Bleeet- shamelessly plugging her talented husband :)

Brendon Etter said...

The Anony-ms. is correct. I've been rehearsing for a rather intense play, that, coupled with a hectic work schedule, and, most importantly, an iMac that went belly up for over two weeks (it's fixed now, and I'm one .5TB external disk drive happier in the offing) have all conspired to make September my most unbloggedly bloggy month ever.

I'm sure I'll get back into a more routine swing as things quiet down a bit.

And yeah, everyone should come to see Glengarry Glen Ross at the N.A.G. theater October 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14.

Come once, come six times. It's going to be a fucking great show. Keep the kids at home, alright? Seriously.