Colwyn held its monthly meeting last Thursday and it appears the tiny borough is, for the most part, stepping out of the enormous shadow that casts Council as unruly and in cohesive.
Through the years, Council members and residents have been verbally brawling during public meetings, which, at times, turned into a county-wide spectacle.
Last year, a reporter assumed a man sitting in the audience was a resident and attempted to interview him. He revealed he was actually a Clifton Heights resident who attended the meeting to solely be entertained.
To this man, Council members’ shouting matches and other egregious antics were far superior to any reality television show, as demonstrated by his loud cackles, which were especially audible when a woman, a tenant living in a home owned by former Council President Fred Lesher, exposed her and her toddler’s bed bug-bitten bare-backs to Council during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The Clifton Heights man wasn’t the only one drawn to Colwyn’s monthly political-free-for-all. Regional television news media also latched onto the absurdity and, for a regular time, always situated news crews in the center aisle of Council chambers waiting for the moment a Councilmember or resident raised their voice, prompting the crews to swarm to record the exchange.
January was a transitional period for Colwyn; new faces appeared on Council and a new order has also been imposed. Earlier this year, the number of TV news crews and overall attendance of residents plummeted.
Under the watch of current Council President Jacqueline Stevenson, news cameras are relegated to record from the back of the room and former Borough Manager Paula Brown, often a source of the controversies, has been banned from all municipal meetings.
Last week’s monthly meeting was eerily different than past meetings. Less than 10 residents were present and no news crews in sight.
Stevenson said, “A lot has changed since January,” and that the borough is desperately “trying to change.”
The change Stevenson describes is a work in progress, but some of the old, undesirable habits are still waning. For one, shouting matches were common throughout the meeting among key players such as officials of the currently defunct Colwyn Fire Company, community activists and various elected Council members.
At this meeting, former Council President Fred Lesher, no longer a Council leader, accused Councilwoman Martha VanAuken of “raising taxes on the poor” and Councilwoman Patricia Williams called for the firing of Borough Manager Tina Mason.
When asked about the call for her departure, Mason said, “It happens a lot.”
“Our borough needs a manager,” Stevenson said after the meeting. “(Mason) has been making great strides to move the borough forward; we’re working as a community.”