“Nobody in her right mind would call a meeting in January even if it was declared a crisis,” grumbled Madeleine Morgan as she shuffled into the community hall along with the town’s 12 other electors for a special session of the Homeland Security Committee.
(The 14th elector, Little Jimmy, the perennial online college student, was gone to Fairbanks for a practicum on polar bears.)
Crisis meetings, requiring immediate action, were one up on emergency meetings which required nothing.
“It’s colder in this coliseum than it is outside,” she lamented as she chose the warmest looking steel chair near the front.
“We shouldn’t even be out,” Orville Jordan, the retired railroad depot agent, added. “We don’t need to meet…we need to hibernate.”
“Couldn’t we start the pot-bellied stove and get a little heat?” asked Holger Danske, who had his sheepskin coat pulled up past his collar and his cap flaps snuggled down against his ears.
“It takes a whole day to warm this place with one little stove,” Chief Alert Officer Garvey Erfald pointed out.
“Well, I think we should light the fire and all sit around the stove to do our business,” proposed Orville.
“I don’t think we have any wood,” Garvey doubted as he craned his neck around to see what might be combustible.
“Well, there’s that table Holger broke when he got mad over passing that rule about fracking in extraordinary places in the city limits,” Josh Dvorchak recalled. “He’s got mineral rights, you know.”
“The only extraordinary place we have is the raised wildflower bed by the old bank,” Madeleine reported. “And they all died when Sievert sprayed them with Roundup instead of the special fertilizer we ordered from Gurney’s.”
“We shouldn’t have any fracking in the flowers until we’re sure they’re dead,” suggested Dorsey Crank, sponsor of the anti-fracking rule.
“Come on! Let’s vote on starting the stove,” proposed Holger. He was now bouncing his freezing feet on the cold floor and slapping his mitts against his sides.
With the call for action, Chairperson Ork Dorken banged his Coke bottle on an empty chair to call the meeting to order.
“Okay!” he exclaimed authoritatively. “Let’s vote on starting the stove. First, we’ll hear arguments in favor.”
“It’s 13 below outside and at least 20 below inside,” Josh chattered. “That should be enough argument.”
His statement earned an “Amen” from three supporters.
“Okay. Everybody in favor raise a hand,” Ork ordered.
Holger raised both hands.
“No stuffing the ballot box with two hands, Holger,” Ork scolded. “Garvey will count.”
“Six in favor,” Garvey determined after a studied glance around the huddled group.
“Now let’s hear from those opposed.”
“If we start the stove, the meeting will just get longer and we will sit around wasting our time instead of doing business,” speculated Dorsey.
“Let’s vote,” bellowed a trembling Einar Stamstead whose nose was now bluer than usual.
“Six against,” Garvey announced. “Six-to-six, we’re tied.”
“How can that be?” asked Holger. “There are 13 of us.”
“Well, I’m the chairman so I didn’t vote,” Ork explained.
“But doesn’t a chairman vote in a tie?” queried Madeleine.
“We’ve never adopted rules so I don’t know,” Ork answered defensively, disguising the fact that he couldn’t make up his mind.
“Let’s postpone the crisis, order a rules committee to report back in the spring, and adjourn,” proposed Garvey.
Without waiting for a vote, all 13 – with Holger in the lead - fled out the door and into the cold northwest wind without discussing the crisis.
Lloyd Omdahl served as North Dakota’s 34th Lieutenant Governor of the state from 1987 to 1992. Previously he was a professor of political science at the University of North Dakota. He continues to write columns for newspapers across the state of North Dakota.