2002.08.28 In a pickle in Punxsutawney

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Maybe I have it easy here—easy, but far less entertaining. Writing about Morenci city council meetings is simply no match to those in Punxsutawney, Pa.

Morenci city council member Lucy Bach handed me a hefty document a few Monday nights ago that represented a five hour meeting of the Punxsutawney Borough council. It started at 7 p.m. and it ended at two minutes after midnight.

What’s Lucy’s connection? She has a close one. Her daughter, Mary Jane, serves as borough secretary, and as a Punxsutawney council member points out, Mary Jane has little to do during the week other than typing up the minutes of the meeting.

Take that as a hint of the level of hostility that exists among certain council members and borough employees.

The meeting minutes from June 10 needed 58 pages of legal size paper to tell the story. It’s extremely detailed. Apparently, Mary Jane transcribes the meeting from an audio tape.

The first 16 pages of the minutes—an estimated hour and 22 minutes—record the discussion about clarification of the working foreman’s job description.

They turned on Mary Jane because she transcribed the motions as they were spoken, rather than correct any errors. Councilor Francis Molinaro stated a person would receive a hundred dollars an hour during a trial period, rather than one dollar an hour.

“Come on, you are not talking to a bunch of dummies here, maybe one or two,” Molinaro said.

A few pages later, he suggested that in the future, something like this should be typed and talked about and then “give it to the girl to type it.” The girl, I assume, is Mary Jane.

On page 9, councilor John Sisk asked, “It is corrected now, right?” It seemed to be, but three pages later, Molinaro asked, “Can we go on? I have to be out of here at a certain time.” But it wasn’t until page 16 when everything was finally straightened out.

Councilor Molinaro appears to be a reporter’s dream. If only I had someone like him to spice up meetings.

• “The Third World seems to be living better than Punxsutawney. I am sick of this council here. You know what it reminds me of? Sitting on a chair on the Titanic.”

• “We pay that girl a lot of money to do nothing but budgets all day.”

• “My only concern, and this is where things blow up my skirt….”

• “You are trying to look like God. I’ve got news for you; you are not.”

• “No one wants to tell Legal and Finance because they want to be big shots around here.”

• “Everybody here likes to be a big shot.”

• “Of course I never get much done because people are jealous.”

• “He called me every effing word in the book. The next time I am going to punch him right in the face.”

•  “Our attorney, our illustrious attorney who is out hunting….”

• “Half of [the ordinances] don’t mean anything. It’s just that times have moved so forward.”

• “I used to be very brilliant.”

Rich, rich, rich. What a story to write.

One of the people who does have the pleasure of quoting Mr. Molinaro is Dee Veitz of the Punxsutawney newspaper, The Spirit.

She wrote a column about another 58-page meeting—this one lasted until 1 a.m.—and commented about how people tend to lose their tempers and become disrespectful as the long evening wears on. She even referred to the Punxsy Borough meetings as “Hell on Earth.” The long hours are wearing on her, too.

Apparently, she got chewed out pretty good for her coverage of the meeting. She wrote a follow-up story and got raked once again.

She went on to explain how her job works—if it’s spoken at a public meeting and it’s news, it goes into the paper—but then she got a little eccentric herself. She justified her job as reporter by telling about her near-death experience from a liver infection.

“Our heavenly Creator pulled me into His space for one Brief moment and returned me to this life to serve His will. I will champion the rights of ‘the little dogs, the working dogs’.”

And probably even the ground hogs. It seems something strange is going on in Punxsutawney. I don’t think it’s been the same since the last Phil died.

    – Aug. 28, 2002 
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