Here’s why it’s funny … or pathetic.



Before relaxing our grip on Dan Coffey’s New Year’s coronation, otherwise known as Monday’s city council meeting, a respectful but nuanced nod is due at-large councilman John Gonder, who took time during the PUB-OFF-COMM of the conclave to share a newspaper story about deaths in a tragic fire in Anderson, Indiana.

Apparently the fire was set by children playing with a cigarette lighter, and although the precise make and model of the lighter could not be gleaned from the media coverage, CM Gonder was moved to ruminate on the council’s much maligned “novelty lighter” ordinance of 2008.

He defended the council’s good intentions in approving the ordinance, observed that there had yet to be any discernable sign of enforcement stemming from it, and noted that if the ordinance was fated to be ignored, it would be better to remove it from the code book entirely.

Before I proceed, allow me to offer clarification. I continue to regard John Gonder and Jack Messer as my de facto council representatives, given the absence of diplomatic (or undiplomatic) recognition – or, for that matter, a pulse – from those representing the 3rd and 6th districts, these being my home and work areas, respectively.

Accordingly, I appreciate Gonder’s remarks on Monday, and remarkably, Gonder’s sincerity prompted a brief discussion of how the council might better monitor enforcement of the laws it passes, and perhaps more importantly, it led to another in a series of confessions from the city attorney to the effect that in the absence of time and money, such violations will have to be reported to his office, and will be investigated accordingly.

Somewhere, Jim “Gomer Pyle” Nabors’ ears are burning, but we’ll take what we can get, while hoping that indications of conscience are harbingers of better things to come. Later in the meeting, preliminary ordinance enforcement plans were previewed. Later in the week, a rumor went around to the effect that the city attorney would become full time. All well and good, assuming anything actually happens.

Now for the promised nuance.

Obviously, some members of the council remain in abject denial when it comes to the power of the symbolism attached to what they do … and don’t do, and in this context, CM Coffey’s Monday semantics about the importance of what doesn’t happen when it isn’t seen deserves placement in the dumpster, and fast.

In itself, a novelty lighter ordinance is perfectly rational and incontestably well-meaning, and yet it is unmistakably inconsequential in the larger legislative scheme of things. After all, kids were setting houses on fire with matches long before lighters were invented.

A novelty lighter ordinance becomes symbolic fodder for satire, and worthy of at least a slight measure of regular derision, when it can be clearly contrasted with an accompanying absence of sustained, quantifiable action in far more important areas.

Presenting the Gahan Gambit: Look, ma – following in the footsteps of our conniving council predecessors, we’ve once again refused our Constitutional duty to maintain fair legislative districts, but check it out: We’re protecting children from the evil Chinese!

I know, I know … when you have to explain the joke, it isn’t nearly as funny. The problem remains that more of “us” than “them” get it the message … if not the joke.