Podcast: the Triumvirate on Mayor Rossing’s crackdown on Council decorum; City Hall budget cuts

The LG TriumvirateWe split our time between A) making suggestions for cutting the budget at City Hall and B) discussing Mayor Mary Rossing’s 5-minute commentary at the start of last week’s Council meeting.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes:

Mary Rossing remarks to CouncilKYMN has the indexed video of the 5/18/10 Council meeting so you can go right to the video of the Mayor’s Opening Remarks.  (KYMN News Director Scott Peterson mentioned her remarks in his news update on 5/19.)

There are a couple minutes of dead air at the beginning, plus the approval of minutes etc. so her opening remarks don’t begin till the 3:45 minute mark. If you’re in a hurry, here’s an audio excerpt. (Click play to listen. 5 minutes.)

You can also download the MP3 or subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe directly with iTunes. Our radio show/podcast, Locally Grown, usually airs Mondays at 6:00 PM and Sundays at 10 AM on KYMN 1080 AM.

9 thoughts on “Podcast: the Triumvirate on Mayor Rossing’s crackdown on Council decorum; City Hall budget cuts”

  1. I don’t want to comment again on the Mayor’s comments because I said all I wanted to that night at an appropriate item later in the agenda, Council Goals.
    But there is more to say on the general subject of ‘attitudes’…
    Mayor Rossing wants more decorum in meetings, and no public conflicts…
    Councilor Pownell, at the last council meeting when the discussion turned from electronic communications in general, to broadcasting some of the additional Boards and commissions said they would “need a Code of Conduct”!
    ( Maybe you can haul out that one from last year , Ross.)

    I would ask for something that shouldn’t have to be asked for: more Responsibility and more Accountability.

    We have council members on the EDA who do not care to see that the statutes governing that body are observed. And remember that those Council people are operating under an oath to observe the law. i.e. statutes of the state, etc. By no means have all the problems with the EDA been corrected.
    One specific example: Ms. Pownell is the Treasurer: does she sign all the checks as the statute requires?

    Where do dress codes come in? under ‘Decorum’ or ‘Conduct’?
    We have a councilor who often wears a KISS t-shirt to the legislative meetings… OK or not OK? Decorous or not appropriate?
    (Actually, that comment is just to make a point: I don’t believe in ‘dress codes’)

    Under the headings of ‘Accountability ‘ and ‘Responsibility’, we have a councilor who does not recuse himself from voting on the appointment of a person to the rental appeals board with whom he is in court three days later for eviction or nonpayment of rent issues (voted against appointment by the way) and that’s just the tip of the iceberg there.

    More ‘Accountability’ and ‘Responsibility’ : Then we have an entire council, and it’s not just this one, so I guess its a cultural thing, that cannot see themselves as the Employers of the City Staff, who are the Council’s legitimate Employees. (I personally think that is a real DIS-service to a professional staff)
    And when we do get a few councilors who are willing to say that they think there was a more appropriate way for staff to handle a situation, all those ‘naughty children’ ( councilors and staff) must decorously remove their comments behind closed doors so as not to disturb the ‘decorum’, or ruffle the True Blue Curtains of the Council Chambers.

    Accountability… hmm… the immediate one that comes to mind is from the Safety Center Steering Committee meeting last Tuesday and is way too long to write… so you if you see me around, and ask with decorum and a mode of good conduct, I may choose to tell it to you… even right out in Public!

    Oh! Budget was also discussed… that will have to wait; just like the flower baskets, and the banners, and the Grass seed for Bridge Square!
    (sorry, thread drift!)

  2. Nfld News Managing Editor Suzy Rook has an online column today addressing this issue.

    New deal or bad deal?

    There is nothing in Robert’s Rules of Order about addressing a meeting’s chair when disagreeing with another member of a board. Yet that’s what Northfield Mayor Mary Rossing has decided the city councilors must do.

    On Tuesday, Rossing twice stopped Councilor Jon Denison from addressing fellow Councilor Erica Zweifel during discussion of city funding for community events, reiterating her contention that Denison address Rossing as chair. It wasn’t that Denison was out of line, Rossing said. He was speaking to the person he disagreed with.

    Wow.

    Last I checked, rules of order must be adopted by a majority of the board, not dictated by the chair. The council should jettison this new “rule.” The quicker the better.

    Someone named ‘Mary,’ presumably Mayor Mary Rossing, challenges Rook with a comment.

    A few corrections:

    1) Robert’s Rules have officially been adopted by the Council.

    2) Robert’s Rules specifically addresses numerous formalities of debate that help to keep discussion on the issues and not on the personalities. Speaking to the chair, not directly to other members is one of these that is preferred. (RONR, 10th ed. p 380 1-14, 16-35)

    3) Councilor Denison was adressing Councilor Zweifel in the discussion referenced above. The discussion and redirection of reference was handled very well by Denison and Council’s discussion moved along without incident

  3. Well, RONR also says that small assemblies (e.g. less than a dozen people) do not need the same level of formality, acknowledging that the formalities required to do business in a large assembly would be counterproductive in a small body. (For more info see RONR 10th ed. pp. 470-471.)

    Since the Council has officially adopted RONR, it’s not technically incorrect for Mayor Rossing to follow the more formal procedure. However, she can’t unilaterally insist on it if the majority wishes otherwise.

  4. This is a tempest in a teapot! I just can’t believe this level of procedure when we have such major ongoing violations of law and all the Mayor is worried about is ‘decorum’. The next thing will be Councilor Pownell’s Code of Conduct; I wish someone would ask her to explain the impetus for that request! (Although I can certainly guess!)

    It would not be so ridiculous if actual respectful ‘decorum’ in the way people are treated was practiced… The rep for the Archery Range went over his time the other evening, and I could not help but remember the way John Dudley, an elected official of Waterford, was treated when he was speaking to the Council, last winter or early spring.
    He WAS giving a lengthy history of the commercial district in Waterford; but he is on a ‘level’ with the Councilors and deserves the same respectful hearing they would, however was told to stop speaking.
    Just plain rude treatment…

    It is also disturbing to hear Councilor Pokorney ask over and over again for financial information that he says he has asked for over and over again.

    I personally think it is sometimes helpful to let the councilors be in conflict with each other , or staff, as it lets the public know more about who to vote for.

    1. I agree, Kiffi. I think there’s this perverse Northfield norm that the most important thing is that it LOOK like governmental or school district entities are working well—not that they actually are.

      I am glad that the lawsuits and countersuits are not happening so freely. If RONR helps with that, then so be it. But it would be even better if people WOULD be respectful, not just have it look good.

      1. In conversation with the principle League of Women Voters observer, she noted that the Mayor, in her ‘decorum’ speech to the council,, made the same sort of public display that she was asking others NOT to do.

        Should it have been done privately?

        But Kathie, can you posit why this “perverse Northfield norm” is a ‘norm’?

  5. Kiffi: (re 4.1.1): By “norm” I don’t mean to say I endorse it. I’m just saying I’ve observed this unwritten rule in town, which seems to be that as long as people put a good face on things or “talk the talk” they don’t actually have to “walk the walk.” So we have people who sign their letters, “Respectfully,” when their behavior is anything but; surveys that purport to gather everyone’s input–but are hopelessly slanted in wording–and now, councilors who have to adopt “decorous” means of address–while the underlying seething issues remain festering.

    I don’t get why the majority of Northfielders behave this way or tolerate this facade, but there it is.

    1. I realize… clearly … that you do not endorse this behavior, and I also understand “I don’t get it”…

      If you were a sociologist would you have to chalk it up to a cultural determination?

      Great subject for a class project , next year, at Carleton…

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