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Looking Back with Mathews, printed June 13, 1977

 

The distinguished group of Town Councilmen made their way to their super-stuffed chairs with the air of Supreme Court Justices, and sat high above their constituents who had packed the chamber for a joint Public Hearing with the Town Planning Commission on a property owner’s request for re-zoning a parcel of land. The air conditioning was going full speed ahead, and had the same temperature prevailed in January the entire group would have been sporting topcoats and earmuffs. One or two of the councilmen casually sipped ice water while waiting for the meeting to get underway. Jimmy Carter, in his button-up sweater, would never feel comfortable in this group. I was sitting in the audience as a non-partisan observer, and I want to say that I was impressed, to say the least. We have come a long wa from the old meeting site in the Municipal Building on Washington Avenue.

I remember back several years ago when the council table got so small in the old building that all of the officials would not fit around it, and Tom Boland sent it over the Public Works Department and had an extension put on it. Then a few years later it was a red-letter day when a brand new table was shipped in from the State Penitentiary. It was so long that a wall had to be knocked out in order to make room for it. Mayor Jackson was in high cotton when he let his gavel fall to that table for the first time. I can say one thing for sure, some mighty good public officials sat behind that table, and many a good piece of work was legislated in those cramped quarters. I remember men like W.A. Larson, Bob White, and Ike Carper, and their interest in better water, sewage, roads, and all of the things that make for a better town.

One of the projects that was conceived, born, and grew in the old municipal building was the 1977 annexation. I remember that during those proceedings there was one group strongly opposed to their area being annexed, so opposed that they fought it in court. They claimed no need for town services, and attempted to convince the court that there was no community of interest with the Town of Pulaski. They were partly successful in their struggle, because when the final annexation line was drawn, a deep gap was left within the County; that area lying between Lee Highway and Pepper’s Ferry Road, causing the Town to look like a giant cake with a large slice cut out of the middle. How ironic, that here, more than twenty years later, comes a group of citizens from the very area that fought so hard to remain free from the rule of the Town, to plead for protection. And how truly democratic that there was no memory or no mention of the past, as the Planning Commission recommended, against and the Council ruled against the re-zoning.

I’m glad I attended this hearing, because it made me know that democracy is still very much alive and well at the grass roots, where it all began. In spite of the air-conditioned stuffed chair comfort some council members still manage to get in each other’s hair, and some of the dialogue gets more picturesque than on the average television program. In the end it’s the vote count that tells the tale, and that’s good clean democracy. Just as in the old days on Washington Avenue, councilmen in this new day like Blair Brockmeyer, Arthur Meadows, Bill House, and Andy Graham sit representing the electorate wit the same dedicated devotion; just in much more comfortable quarters. A lot of legislation has gone over the table since the day that Bob Bunts wrote in his “Brushful of Local Color” deploring the fact that the Pulaski Town Council had wasted taxpayers’ money in purchasing cushions for their hard wooden chairs.

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