Hollidaysburg council leaving us strapped
Recently I had the occasion to attend a Hollidaysburg Borough Council meeting.
Uncharacteristically, I arrived early. While surveying the room, I watched as the 30 some chairs for the audience filled. The 11 principle players on the dais appeared at ease and cordial with each other while backed with a soundtrack of low murmurings of greetings, individual conversations and the rustlings of papers, mostly the meeting’s agenda and some notes of prepared public comments.
The first indication that the meeting was to begin came with the chief of police pulling a retractable strap across the room between the council and the citizens. The connecting of the strap to the opposite wall was performed without ceremony but with a considerable sense of formality. This presence of the strap caused me to ponder its purpose.
Surely the installation and connecting of the strap had been planned and authorized, but for what purpose?
Was there a practical purpose for the strap? Would the strap be expected to protect the council members from an irate citizen? Did the strap radiate a protective energy field or was it simply electrified?
The strap itself was a mere three inches wide and a minimum of three feet off the ground in a room with a nine-foot ceiling, so its actual security features appeared less than formidable.
Or was there a symbolic purpose for the strap? Why would a local municipal government need to separate the representatives from the citizenry they were elected to serve?
My search for some symbolism was left unanswered as the meeting properly began.
As the meeting followed its agenda and I grew more and more confused as to how and when the borough council made decisions, I was transported through a sense of deja vu as if being within an actual play.
Not in the majestic Mishler Theatre, but further back during my college days as I sat numbly watching Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” considered still as the Theatre of the Absurd’s first theatrical success.
In “Waiting for Godot,” a conversation between two individuals wanders through three acts with rambling dialog waiting for the mysterious Godot who continually sends word that he will appear.
Suddenly, I was brought back to real time.
As the council members discussed agenda worthy matters, I was struck by the impression these deliberations of serious discourse sounded like interruptions between month-long compliance with well-intended but restrictive Sunshine Laws.
This impression sadly dissolved into a feeling that this was no way to make impactful decisions.
As I left the borough building after the council meeting, I recalled that Godot, even after three acts, never came. Feeling a little bewildered, I wondered if Godot encountered a strap.
I guess we weren’t meant to know.