Governance debates between Tootie McDaniels and Gus Chapman were lively and entertaining, but sadly, short lived. These verbal duals of the council chamber could land somewhere between rams butting heads, strident, obstreperous — and Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr, who could, at times, be jocular, sparing, articulate wits from political poles. Tootie and Gus were both Republicans, but Tootie had fervent Libertarian leanings, which made her myopic in the support of funding long range infrastructure improvements.
Gus had once muttered to her after a meeting when the chamber was empty of constituents, half in advice, half as a taunt, “Generally, when one says something flip or stupid in this chamber, maybe in all places for all cases, you’re generally screwed, maybe not with your mother, but certainly with constituents.”
Her response, ‘Go kiss a frog.’
She once squawked about the sex education program in the schools, funded in part by the city, part by the state, and part from the giving of the DuMont Foundation. She blurted that this instruction was socialism.
Gus sighed. “No, Ms. McDaniels. Socialism is public education itself. You know, like Medicare and the United States Postal Service.”
She stared at him, made cross-eyes, speechless.
Tootie had little concern for things like garbage and wastewater, aspects of city life best left to someone else, a philosophy that would get under Gus’s skin. She preferred to focus on the health of the economy, on the outward appearances of government, not the neglect of the skeletal elements of the town. Yet, as Gus was quick to point out, “You let the digestive tract go, and there goes everything.”
There was a meeting in which the Public Works Department came to the council asking for money because of a sewage line break between Uptown and Downtown, creating an odiferous hazard and an actual public health danger. The figure foe repair was astounding to every city councilor.
Tootie coughed and sputtered. “You mean to tell me we have to pay millions to repair that leak?”
It was in the written report, which apparently Tootie neglected to read, and that irritated Gus, who could get haughty when his ire rose.
“Ms. McDaniels,” he began. “The heartbreaking cost of this repair is due to the corrosion of old pipe stretching from the intersection of Upriver Road and Beech Street down to Mt. Rushing Highway and Albatross Street, quite a stretch.”
“Can’t we just patch that?” she asked.
“Patching is what you do to dungarees and bicycle tires. That would not be the way we do things here, in fact. We’re talking of over a mile of new pipe and intakes and all of the work done by union labor.”
“Unions!” she exclaimed. “What have unions done but undone the Republic?”
Mayor Orin Holman let the give and take proceed. Not only informative, it was clearly entertaining to everyone in the room, unionists aside.
Gus rebutted, “While you may not appreciate unions, they made America great. I am in business too; I understand your position, but often the worker needs protection, and in numbers there is strength, but that is not the real point of this agenda item. We have a broken sewer, and unless we make a thorough repair and — and improve our monitoring of existing lines, we shall be living this state of incredulousness again.”
Tootie rolled her eyes. “Oh, Mr. Chapman. You slay me. Incredulousness? That’s a twenty-dollar word! Now, I want a healthy world of wastewater as much as the next person, but this is a lot of money.”
Gus nodded, “And there are federal and state grants for which we may apply, but regardless, this matter is Warhaven’s responsibility to solve.” He smiled. “Remember, Tootie, Small government is good government.”
She smiled, knowing Gus had struck her on her libertarian funny bone. “I suppose I see your point, Gus, but what do we cut from the budget to make this repair?”
Orin struck the gavel to the tabletop. “That will be a matter for the Budget Committee to wrestle with next Monday evening. I will ask members of the Wastewater Committee to be in attendance and participate. Have we exhausted this debate?”
Gus and Tootie signaled that the bantering was over.