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CHILDREN GET A FEEL FOR COUNCIL SESSION

Half-pint lawmakers endorsed plans Thursday to build a sprawling water park inside City Hall, but they shelved a controversial bill that would have doled out $1 million checks to every elementary student in Buffalo.

The Common Council also created a cartoon task force, heard testimony on a bill that would make it illegal for adults to wear baseball caps backward, and sent to committee a plan to paint all city streets green.

It was clear from the start that this wasn't your run-of-the-mill Council session. These lawmakers-for-a-day didn't deliver rambling speeches or show any signs of political infighting. Of course, it helped that they worked from prepared scripts. They even finished the meeting on schedule.

"And please notice that the Common Council president is a female," said South Council Member Mary M. Martino, who watched Kid Council from the back aisle of the 13th-floor chambers.

More than 250 elementary students from nine schools attended an event sponsored by Full Circle Studios. The Buffalo digital media production company is developing a DVD presentation aimed at complementing the school district's social studies curriculum. Students from Performing Arts Academy served as lawmakers, department heads and Council support staff.

They livened up the meeting by dancing in their seats, performing physical antics like demonstrating what it might look like to "lay a bill on the table" and vying to be the first to answer trivia questions about Council proceedings.

Ten-year-old Janay Williams served as a Council member at large. She had done her homework, occasionally watching the "real" Council on the cable television public-access station.

"Those meetings are important, but they're boring," she said. "Our meeting was more interesting."

Working from their scripts, students debated the pros and cons of the proposed backward-baseball-cap ban. Anthony Orlowski, 15, complained that his dad's cap-wearing practices have been humiliating.

"All my friends were laughing at him. It was just so embarrassing," he lamented, even shedding mock tears.

But Council President Erica Rashley, 11, decided to shuffle the bill to the Fashion Committee for further study.

"We can't start passing laws preventing people from wearing what they choose to wear," she said.

Rob Graham, a staffer at Full Circle Studios, served as emcee and kept the session moving along. He even awarded prizes to kids who could correctly define the meaning of such terms as "quorum" and "meeting minutes."

After the session, students answered questions from media representatives. How would they handle the city's current financial crisis if their votes on the Council floor counted?

Janay, the 10-year-old student from Performing Arts, said a little discipline wouldn't hurt.

"Maybe people should stop buying everything they want," she said. "When I go into a store, I can't have everything I want."

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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