John Howard: Quote machine

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By Greg Summers

Reporters call a politician like John Howard a “quote machine.”
There was almost never a question he wouldn’t answer, often with a home-spun quip or outlandish analogy. He was passionate – often fiery, sometimes indignant – about how the city conducted business.
Howard gravitated to olfactory references.
“This thing is starting to resemble a slop jar,” he once fumed over some governmental calamity. “The more you stir it up, the worse it stinks.”
“This smells worse than a five-day-old minnow bucket,” he blurted out in one city council meeting.
Sometimes, he would fire one off and everyone would just think “Huh?” But you knew what he meant.
Some of our favorite Howard-isms:
◆ “You could put Michelle Obama or Charles Manson on the committee, but they have to fund things covered by the statute.” – On properly spending hospitality tax revenue.
◆ “There is no way on God’s green Earth that she is due, or deserves, any payment.” – On city council member Linda Blackmon’s request for back pay while she wasn’t in office.
◆ “It’s embarrassing that I can’t find underwear that’s not made in the Dominican Republic.” – On the lack of American-made consumer goods.
◆ “Opinions are just like noses. I got a big one and, it looks just like Rodney Dangerfield and I’m proud of it.” – During a debate about Municipal Court.
◆ “It’s inexcusable! And that’s putting it lightly. Even if you’re not going to respect someone when they’re alive, you’ve surely got to respect their resting place.” – On cemetery vandalism at the Olde Presbyterian Church.
◆ “The law is the law. When you take an oath to uphold the laws of government, I take that seriously and I’m not going to do anything to put this city at risk. There has to be a time to say enough is enough.” – On changing meeting agendas without the public’s knowledge.
◆ “We live in such as finger-pointing, suit-happy society. I just feel a lot better if we have something on paper.” – On city firefighters using the old jail for training.
◆ “The Twilight Zone.” – On a 2 percent employee pay raise request in 2011 that he thought the city couldn’t afford.    
◆ “Downtown will never be what it once was. It can only be better.” – On businesses returning to Main Street.
◆ “This whole thing is over petty bovine scatter, and I think your readers can figure that out.” – On a recent city council squabble.
◆ “We just struck down 50 years of fairness in this city.”  – On appointments to the local housing board.
◆ “We had this saying in the military and it applies to Justin in this instance. He has all his stuff in the same sock.” – On the city hiring Justin McLellan as fire chief.
◆ “I am John Patrick Howard, date of birth 9-22-50, a citizen of Lancaster County and a citizen of the United States. And not just because I’m the mayor, but as a citizen, any court proceeding is open to the general public. Who knows? Something real exciting may come along, or nothing….” – On attending a court hearing for last year’s District 3 election protest.
◆ “How do you deal with it? With great difficulty, that’s how.” – On skyrocketing city health-care premiums.
◆ “It would probably boggle our minds … the miles he put on his car riding around town looking for potholes and other things someone had called about.” – On former Mayor Joe Shaw.
◆ “It’s a crying shame that we sit up here talking about looking after the taxpayers, when the truth of the matter is the taxpayers are having their noses rubbed in the mud.” – On the city’s inability to collect $1 million in delinquent traffic fines.
◆ “Prior councils thought it was a diamond in the rough.” – On taking in the old Springs water and sewer systems, which the city is now repairing under an $18 million federal consent order.
◆ “Somebody needs to chop off this snake’s head as soon as it pops back up.” – On a state legislative proposal to eliminate local business license fees.