Dallas City Council sessions generally begin and end with “Open Microphone Speakers,” with these being comprised of any citizens who’ve signed up by the deadline of 5 p.m. on the previous day. Each speaker is given three minutes, and though these sessions begin with a quick admonition by a staffer to follow certain vague rules of propriety, in practice there’s no clear mechanism by which to enforce them. A police officer stands off to the side, behind the speaker’s podium, ready to move them along if he gets the signal from the mayor pro tem or some other responsible party, but so long as the speaker remains below a certain threshold of potentially violent derangement, the Council is reluctant to interrupt. The result is a rather intriguing ongoing spectacle in which the city’s highest officials routinely start off their working day by being admonished in harsh and often mysterious terms by an ever-shifting medley of odd locals, ranging from homeless people suffering from chronic mental illness to basically functional political cranks and religious zealots.
Wednesday morning’s speaker session, for instance, began with a monologue by an abrasive Yankee who gave his name as Robert Chicarelli. He said: “Please! Let me have your attention! I was very ticked off last week when I saw in the paper that — I already knew about how you don’t pay attention to the regulars. Please, pay attention, very much, right now. Please. Value Options. I’m with Value Options.”
Value Options turned out to be some sort of rent assistance program run by the state for the benefit of former psychiatric patients, among other things, that was apparently not providing the fellow with sufficient services, to the extent that he expected to be homeless at the end of the week. Or maybe not. “If you read my articles, I go to jail,” he said. “I don’t play around with this homelessness stuff. … I’m very serious about this. I’m going to jail, and you let me know what’s going on. … I’m just ticked last week when I saw the article [Dallas Morning News writer and noted polymath Robert] Wilonsky wrote about how you feel about us, the regulars that speak. I take that personally.”
He went on to blame the Value Options crisis on a particular staffer whose name and phone number he proceeded to read off several times in a row. Then he said something about former County Commissioner John Wiley Price being “off the chain,” though it wasn’t clear if this was meant in a positive or a negative sense. “Let me tell you about the Bridge [homeless shelter],” Chicarelli said. “I don’t know if it’s racial or what. But if you think they’re helping the homeless — you gotta be kidding me!” He eventually thanked the Council and left.
A woman wearing shades and a complicated green t-shirt took the mic and explained that she had e-mailed attachments to each Council member but was not able to print them out downstairs due to a certain machine having been broken for six months. “It is important that I endure the inhuman repercussions from Dallas because it was meant to be me,” said the woman. “That’s why it’s me. Laura Miller is quoted as saying about Scott Griggs that the green light had to be given in order for them to start the investigation. … I have the utmost respect for each Council member, but this people business. I’m gonna be the one to humbly endure your consequences, to open up, get the key [inaudible]. Ima endure all of that,” she said, jabbing her pen in the air for emphasis. “What’s important is the cover-up of Green Oaks [a local psychiatric hospital] and why you took me. It started in 2009.” She proceeded to accuse the city of having perpetrated “the most massive criminal conspiracy ever documented and witnessed in America’s history” and declared that “you don’t have the right to bully individuals who are seeking the truth, to expose the truth.” Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo eventually tried to cut her off, but she protested, as an officer approached: “Ms. Alonzo, it’s important, that whatever you’re doing, about open up and prostituting females, you don’t have the right to do that!”
Another woman approached the mic and spoke in favor of the parks.
The last morning speaker was a certain Kim Welch, who declared that he was running for City Council in District 14, “opposing the Honorable Philip Kingston.” “I have so many things — it’s really pointless to bring up all the specific things that concern me that I feel I can improve on here,” he said. Instead he noted that he publishes several magazines, including one called StudentFilmmakers Magazine, which he said was subscribed to by the film departments of all the universities in the area. “I’ll be e-mailing Council members. I know you can’t endorse me formally in any sort of way, but I am a citizen, and I do want to help in any way I can. I’m smart, I’m hardworking. … And so if there’s anything you can do, especially answering questions, because I don’t know how some of the things work, so I’d like to study those things, and I’m sure that you would be able to help me. Thank you very much.”