When I was in my 20s, I used to hear the phrase, “Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.”

Fortunately, the Fitchburg Common Council has not usually been staying out that late, but its mouthy navigators are keeping the rest of the alders up way past their bedtime.

Normally, I would rate a flippant phrase like that as trite, a whiny complaint from someone who’s getting sick of late evenings.

But in this case, the party most irritated by the council’s late nights is our intrepid news editor, who pithily loves the “good TV,” as I like to call it, of contentious jostling at City Hall. And the topics have been important, including one with an imminent expiration date and implications on a national election most people I know suggest is among the most important in their lives.

Certainly some issues require debate, and controversy or difference of opinion is impossible to avoid without a failure to represent everyone. But this latest one, so far consuming two long nights at City Hall (and on Zoom), should be an easy one in political terms: If you can find a place for the election within District 1 — ideally accessible by foot to most voters on either side of Verona Road — people will be all for it.

Unfortunately, the effort to find this magical location has been disorganized at best, and it’s running out of time. The lack of proper research before the debate appears to be killing the city’s chances of finding and vetting a suitable location.

I can’t blame it all on the late nights and endless jabbing and posturing. I mean, either it’s going to be suitable and workable or it’s not. There are laws to follow, and this is not rocket science (or string theory).

No, the real problem is this is not getting the staff involved. If I’m an alder representing this district or claiming to fight for the vulnerable and socioeconomically challenged in the city – or the mayor – I’m pushing the clerk and city administrator to make this a priority and get any help they need in determining the right place for a temporary voting place that’s big enough to accommodate the problems of the pandemic.

It’s been mishandled from the start by the alder leading the effort, Dorothy Krause, but everyone owns this now. After that first stumble, an Aug. 25 resolution with limited staff input, they should have decided either this is important to get figured out or it’s not, rather than let the circus continue.

That we have had endless debates over proposed locations since before summer started and are still coming up with new ideas in September is evidence that people have not been working together for the common good here. It’s not fair to residents of those areas, and it’s not courteous to this same staff whom you keep asking to do emergency work when it could have been methodical and worked in with their other duties.

If alders want to insist this election keep its temporary polling place outside the district to avoid confusion and return to the former fire station on King James Way after the Census, then vote for that and shut up. There’s no point in talking this to death.

But they all need to make sure this is settled once and for all by the next meeting. They owe it to their constituents.

That goes for those alders not representing District 1, too. You can’t leave the district on an island anymore.

So get the staff to compile some spots and recommend them and get this over with either way.

Anyone who has ever had insomnia knows the “good TV” that plays at night is a shell of the best stuff in prime time.

And nobody who hears me say the phrase “good TV” has ever heard it paired with the words “good government.”

Jim Ferolie is the general manager of Unified Newspaper Group, which publishes the Verona Press. He oversaw coverage of Fitchburg government from 2009-2020.