A chicken slaughterhouse in Bladensburg's revitalized downtown? The town administrator sent to Hong Kong for a trade fair? The entire Town Council authorized to travel to Paris for a Maryland Municipal League meeting?

Has local government run amok in the Town of Bladensburg?

No, say council members, but for one night last week the council wanted to show citizens what could happen if it did, so the council scheduled a mock meeting during its regular session and invited residents to take part.

The council members were trying to make a point, according to Town Administrator Eric Morsicato.

"The council was trying to show what could happen without public participation in town government," Morsicato said. "The idea came from a Maryland Municipal League meeting, where it was suggested that different municipal councils use the mock meeting to enlighten their communities."

Even in the mock setup, council members were skeptical of the chicken slaughterhouse plan until someone passed around envelopes stuffed with money from an unseen Mr. Hen, who wanted to build the facility. Suddenly, the council had no problem making a decision, much to the anger of several members of the audience, who were brandishing "Save the Chicken" signs.

"We had a serious point to make but the meeting also gave the council a chance to get away from the seriousness of everyday government," said Morsicato, who was asked to give a report on the feasibility of feeding birth control pills to rats to combat a town rodent problem.

On a more serious note, but not without a bit of irony, the council passed an ethics ordinance for elected and appointed officials, thus complying with a state law requiring each municipality to govern the conduct of local officials.