Comedian Patton Oswalt gives Twitter shout-out to Livingston County activist

In the Twitter-sphere, there are few things more impressive than receiving attention from actor Patton Oswalt, one of the social media’s masters.

And that’s what happened on Feb. 26, 2019, when Oswalt re-tweeted a video of a Livingston County resident reading Oswalt’s Star Wars filibuster from NBC’s much-beloved “Parks and Recreation,” a show that celebrated (and sweetly skewered) small-town civic involvement.

It was a three-letter shout-out of a four-letter word. And it went out to his 4.48 million Twitter followers:

Oswalt’s Tweet was directed at Bridgett McDowell, who showed up at the Livingston County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday night to protest the board’s decision to stop recording and posting its meetings.

McDowell used her second call-to-the-public time to quote from Oswalt’s well-known Star Wars filibuster he delivered in a 2013 episode of “Parks and Recreation.” (See that scene below.)

The reading of the Star Wars filibuster happened to get tweeted  by Lauren Gibbons, a reporter covering politics for MLive. (If you want to follow Lauren Gibbons, click here.)

Jordan Genso

The Citizens Filibuster was the brainchild of Jordan Genso of Brighton. In late 2017, Genso, a Democrat, successfully got the Livingston County Board of Commissioners — whose members are all Republicans — to start posting online recordings of its Monday night, full-board meetings. The initial six-month contract for the recordings was renewed in April 2018, but a three-commissioner subcommittee voted 2-1 to stop the service in November 2018.

Genso — a big fan of transparency in government — wanted to draw the board’s attention to the public’s concern about what felt like a huge step backward for its right to know. And so he came up with this brilliantly charming, subversive, and really effective way to make sure commissioners understood the public’s concern.

The commission’s meeting on Feb. 25, 2019, was attended by a feisty group of filibusterers, each of whom used the three minutes allotted to each during call to the public to add a lot of time to the evening in protest of the commission’s decision to stop recording its meetings. Among the creative filibusters was the reading of Oswalt’s Parks and Rec Star Wars speech.

So, why did the commission decide to stop recording its meetings?

Now, I am not one for conspiracy theory-ing, but if I were, I might think there might be the possibility of some kind of partisan clap-back going on here. Some faux pas on the part of members of the board were caught on tape in the last year, and Republicans were subjected to a supremely spirited challenge by Democrats in the general election. (How spirited? The Republicans actually spent some serious money on hit-piece mailings in the general election, something kind of unheard of in Livingston County.)

Could such petty reasons actually spell the end of transparency in how the county makes its sausage? Is this what governing has come to?

I really hope not. But if it has, commissioners need to buckle up for continued (and, hopefully, even more creative) filibustering in the future.

Oswalt is a popular comedian and TV star who appeared in “The King of Queens,” “The Goldbergs” and numerous other shows, including “Parks and Recreation.” Here’s his filibuster:

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Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.