You Can’t Fight City Hall

“Do you want to take a trip to City Hall?” a coworker asked me recently.

“You can’t fight City Hall!” I said.

“Don’t worry, we’re not getting into a rumble or anything,” she assured me.

“OK, good. Are we going there to protest something? What are we protesting? I’m pretty anti-ISIS these days, but I could probably work myself into a frenzy over nuclear disarmament if you think that’s a better cause. We can make up some signs and everything. Even stage a sit-in. NO NUKES! It’ll be just like the 60s!”


“Mark. Settle down. We are going to ask about zoning restrictions on putting a sign up in the company parking lot.”

Even though there was no need for me to chain myself to anything, I decided to tag along because I felt like stretching my legs for a bit.

City Hall is a mere two blocks from the office, so we didn’t have far to go. I thought it would be fun to walk inside and tell them I wanted to turn a vacant lot into a park…ode to Parks and Recreation, a truly great sitcom that is ending its seven-year run this week even though it is by far the funniest show on television…but I was afraid the joke would go right over their heads. After all, truly great sitcoms don’t end when they are by far the funniest show on television unless nobody is watching.

What a damn shame. But I digress.

There were three of us total, representatives of our company’s made-up-on-the-spot parking committee. Anyway, we stormed inside City Hall full of demands! That is, if you define “storming” as quietly pushing open the door and “full of demands” as politely inquiring about whom we should submit our request to. Clearly, I have very weird ideas about government in action.

Only, it should be government inaction, because we were shuffled around from one department to the next, and within each department, were handed off to various individuals, none of whom seemed to have the slightest clue about the city’s parking regulations, or who is even responsible for code enforcement. I know bureaucratic inadequacy is a cliche, but dammit if it wasn’t on full display, right before my very eyes.

This is why we need to bring back Schoolhouse Rock. I mean, geez, I learned the whole process of how a bill becomes a law while eating cold cereal and watching the Road Runner get the better of Wile E. Coyote (every. single. time.) on Saturday morning. These guys could stand to learn a thing or two. Finally, they asked me to leave my business card and they’d get back to me with an answer.

That was five days ago. I doubt very much I’ll ever receive an answer at this point.

I’m just a bill
Yes, I’m only a bill
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill
Well, then I’m off to the White House
Where I’ll wait in a line
With a lot of other bills
For the president to sign
And if he signs me, then I’ll be a law
How I hope and pray that he will
But today I am still just a bill

You may not be able to fight City Hall, but I’d sure like to try. Maybe next time we need to go all out and burn a few bras.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

9 thoughts on “You Can’t Fight City Hall

  1. “Only, it should be government inaction, because we were shuffled around from one department to the next, and within each department, were handed off to various individuals, none of whom seemed to have the slightest clue …”

    Mark, don’t you love the runaround that seems to accompany stuff like this? No one seems to know anything. And what blows me away is that this people have jobs!?

    Sure hope things work with the zoning restriction 🙂


  2. In my town, you want to go straight to the code enforcement office to request a permit. If a permit is denied, glean all relevant ordinance information and appeal to the local planning commission, who will either approve or deny your petition based on their interpretation of the ordinance. If they deny, you can appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board for a variance. Denied there, you’ll have to sue to prove that that ordinance is illegal or discriminatory.


  3. Honestly, isn’t this how every government agency runs? I’ve been reading articles about how the IRS no longer makes paper copies of any tax forms available at the library and how so many people (mostly senior citizens) can’t get through to IRS or call and get the same run around you were given.


    1. I remember filling out my taxes by hand many years ago. Let’s just say I am really, really, REALLY thankful for TurboTax! Before that it was H&R Block, but I swear, spending $100+ to get a refund of $200 didn’t make much financial sense.


  4. Oh man School House Rock! Loved it! Did you see the recent SNL skit with I’m Just a Bill about Obama passing the immigration thing without Congresses approval? If you haven’t seen it you should Youtube it!


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