Musical Chairs – JP


Remember how fun it was in grade school playing the game of musical chairs? You’d circle around the chairs to music and when the music stopped everyone had to grab a chair.  But, they were one short. Out went the kid who didn’t get the seat. It was a frantic, fun game that honed kids’ listening, social and problem-solving skills.

The Nashua Board of Aldermen engaged in that game in their chamber recently. The Board of Alderman gallery had a press table in the back.  We all remember the time when press was attending governmental meetings and then, once COVID hit, the press was gone. Nashua’s press table, which had two seats, was sadly empty.

As often a lone attendee at Board of Alderman meetings, typically, I’d bring my computer to sit at the unoccupied press table, work, capture my thoughts, and sometimes contribute to public comment. I’m not a popular person with my city government, so they became irritated.

Initially, I was asked not to sit there. When I questioned the Board President on why that would be a problem, she explained it was a press table and I was not press. The idea that nobody was sitting there did not resonate with her. She was having none of that!

Ignoring the silly comment, I came to the next meeting and sat at the unoccupied press table. I received glaring looks of disapproval and frustration from the Board.

At the next meeting, the two chairs were removed, and only the “press” table remained. The game of musical chairs had begun.

As a woman who knows how to fix a problem, I inquired about the chairs and unsurprisingly learned that the Board President requested the chairs be taken away.

As a creative problem-solver, likely honed from my elementary school musical chairs days, I took a chair from the hallway right outside the chamber and carried it into the gallery, quietly placed it at the table and took my seat. Whoa, I had crossed the line! The President and others moved beyond glares and verbalized their disapproval of my boldness.

All of this was giving me a chuckle. How silly! How childish! But musical chairs is a child’s game.

Well, at the next meeting, the Board of Aldermen upped their game. Not only would the chairs remain missing at the ‘press’ table but the chairs at the public table in the hallway were mysteriously missing as well. The President harshly verbalized that if you’re not a member of the press, you cannot sit at the press table. Mind you, it was never labeled a press table. 

In a brief history, Nashua had a senior woman in her 80s who came to meetings for years and sat at that table when the press wasn’t there. She was a terrific participant in her local government. Would the Board President object if the Mayor had wanted to sit at the table?

As a creative problem-solver, at the next meeting, I carried my own chair to the chamber, quietly unfolded it at the back “press” table, took a seat with my computer, and began my listening and working. That earned me a harsh tongue-lashing for my bold and brazen move and “lack of decorum” in the chamber. They hollered, “you’re not ‘the press’. YOU can’t sit at that table”.

Again, as a creative problem-solver, I reached out to JP to request a press pass as I’ve written articles for the paper. Alas, I would have those essential and critical press credentials necessary to entitle me to a seat at the “press table”. I sent a letter to the Board of Alderman, I was official, I had a press pass. The table’s official use had been restored!

Excited, I appeared at the next meeting with my press badge prominently displayed. But the Board President and Alderman one-upped me. This time, they removed the table! And the space in the back was now an empty hole.

The adrenaline-fun-filled game of musical chairs in Nashua had ended. I lost—a fitting ending illustrating the Board’s welcoming of the public. Corporation Counsel for Nashua announced he might like to put a legal library in that back area. This never came to fruition. Perhaps a few books on 1st Amendment Rights and the Right to Know Law might be helpful in the gallery of the Board of Aldermen chamber.

Pay attention to your local governments. Sometimes, they’re really a hoot.

Las Vegas News Magazine

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More