What might you say to Mayor Lansing and the Council in your two minutes at Open Mic on Thursday?

Mayor Lee Lansing has called a special council meeting for Thursday night, 7 pm at City Hall. Agenda items:

  • Discussion of city leadership issues based on the current lawsuit whereby the Mayor is one of the plaintiffs and the City Administrator and three Council Members are Defendants
  • Review how to publicly address the 14 items that were previously presented to the City Council for review by the State Auditor
  • Should any civil/criminal investigation have any bearing on city process or procedures

In the Northfield News story on the meeting:

“It is hoped that a thoughtful, public discussion now will help ensure productive city council meetings in the future,” the mayor wrote in a memo to the Northfield News Friday. Lansing said Friday he was certain that staff and council would be cooperative in the public discussions. “This discussion is expected to be proactive in ensuring the ongoing work of the city be accomplished in a timely and effective manner,” he explained in his memo.

As facilitator of the meeting, Lansing also said he will be able to do participate in discussion, and “absolutely” would be able to do so effectively as plaintiff in the lawsuit… Public comment will be allowed only on agenda items, according to Deputy City Clerk Jennifer Nash. Those wishing to speak will be required to fill out and submit a card at the meeting.

IMG_0541If you wanted to speak to the Council but can’t be there or don’t feel comfortable in that setting (the podium in the photo on the left is what you’re asked to use when speaking to the Council), what might you say?

I’ll see to it that members get a printout of all civil comments posted here.

36 thoughts on “What might you say to Mayor Lansing and the Council in your two minutes at Open Mic on Thursday?”

  1. If what we want is thoughtful discussion by the council, should this become another meeting opened by a laundry list of individual demands from the public? It seems that enough issues have been raised, and enough opinions stated, that it’s really time for the council to have time to talk and debate and come to thoughtful conclusions. Perhaps the members of the public who truly have something new to add to the discussion could write their concerns down and then the cards could be read by the city attorney to eliminate any emotion and personal bias and focus on the purpose of the comments.
    Just a thought.

  2. What’s the ‘special closed council meeting’ tonight (6pm, Monday 10/29) about?
    If it is to do with the lawsuits, then why is it closed?

    ps Please, Griff, let Victor out of the sin bin.

  3. If the special meeting on Thursday, called by the Mayor , is basically to discuss the lawsuit, the dynamics at City Hall, and how to function with the special investigation … and it is OPEN … then what exactly is the purpose, or the discussion about at Tonights 6PM closed session?

    If these issues can be discussed openly on Thursday, why not on Monday?

  4. Wild speculation #1 – I’ll bet they have to have the closed meeting tonight to know what they can and can’t say at the open meeting on Thurs.

  5. Yes, Tracy, I think you’re right.
    And if the council is sued, the councilors have a right to meet with their attorney. The mayor isn’t disclosing his court strategy, so the councilors should have the same opportunity to prepare their case.
    I’m not sure what purpose the Thursday meeting serves, given the fact that the lawsuit may limit what the councilors are able to say.
    This whole situation would be ridiculous if it weren’t so infuriating. The lawsuit should be dropped, the council should tackle the issues one by one in public.

  6. Wait a minute ; it isn’t just “council” in the closed meeting tonight. Remember, the Mayor is one of the council …so the cast of characters is the same at both the Monday and the Thursday meetings (also includes the City Administrator, of course)

    Tracy: I think you are probably right, which just makes this more apt material for the Theatre of the Absurd”.
    Oh, excuse me … was that uncivil?

  7. I was so annoyed about this closed meeting tonight that I just went to ask the Mayor why to night’s meeting was closed if Thursday’s is open?
    He said that he did not call tonight’s meeting. He said that he knew nothing about tonight’s meeting until he saw it in the paper on Saturday.
    I asked who called tonight’s meeting. He said he didn’t know.
    I asked what would be discussed at tonight’s meeting. He said he didn’t know; he also said that he was not “invited” … Do you get the implication of that? It takes a number of councilpersons, I’m not sure if one or how many , to call a meeting, but The Mayor is Part of the Council. They can no more strip him of his rights while in office than he could do that to them.

    This has gone entirely too far.

  8. Kiffi
    Got to be clear about this….The Mayor was neither invited nor informed about tonight’s closed meeting? No-one knows who it was called by? No-one knows the agenda (is there one?)? What about other councilors…were they all invited/informed?

  9. Norman: what I wrote in #8 is an accurate report of my discussion with the
    mayor. I was still very disturbed about the dynamics and I called the League of Women Voters observer to alert her to the 6 PM meeting, which will have to begin as an open meeting, then entertaining a motion to go to a closed session.
    The observer then called the City Attorney, Maren Swanson, who said that the meeting notices are usually delivered to the councilperson’s house, but that the Mayor had specifically requested that his notices be delivered to his “box”?/office? at City Hall.
    So then it is possible, depending on the delivery date, that he did not look at his “box”, (over the weekend?,but it was in Saturday’s paper) since he was not expecting another meeting on the issue, having called one for this Thursday.
    So all you can conclude is that another (i think it’s three required) group of council persons called the meeting, the notice was in his box, but he didn’t check it, or the notice never got to his box, which seems unlikely.

  10. I think this is pretty obviously just legal procedure. The mayor should have been notified, but how can he participate in the discussion of the council’s defense against his lawsuit? The city website clearly states the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the pending suit, so he can’t be there.
    What’s not clear is why the mayor called a meeting for Thursday to discuss the issues when the basis of his suit is that he can’t get the council to discuss the issues, and now that he’s filed suit, they can’t really discuss the issues because they’re part of the suit.
    Maybe this is the Blackhawks versus the Bruins, but it feels more like Abbott and Costello.

  11. Saturday paper listed a closed City Council meeting for tonight that even the Mayor was unaware of until he read it? Has anyone checked with other Council members as to who called this meeting?

    There used to be a City Hall call-in number that listed the meetings of the week on recording. Anyone know if it still exists and what the number is?

  12. Tonights meeting is with the City’s attorney representing the City, and the four people the mayor is suing. It is about the case, I am guessing. It is closed as I’m sure Mayor Lansing’s meetings with his attorney is closed.

    Obviously the mayor would not be invited to the opposing teams meeting(s).

    Scott

  13. This is a comment on: “Should any civil/criminal investigation have any bearing on city process or procedures.”

    I feel the word “should” is redundant at this point. Maybe a better question is, “Do the current civil/criminal investigations have any bearing on city processes and procedures?” In answer to that question, I would say, unfortunately, yes.

    Should they? I guess that depends on the lawsuits. In this case they seem to have affected the functioning of the city council and staff.

  14. If I used the open mic on Thursday, I would suggest a three mayor town.
    One to bring lawsuits to other council members, one to do whatever he/she
    could to promote his/her own agenda, and one to work on behalf of the
    people of Northfield. Then we’d see some hands free at least.

  15. Tonight’s meeting was posted on the City website several days ago. I don’t remember when I saw it, but it was sometime last week:

    http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/meetings/council/2007/10/29/special_city_council_meeting9

    Agenda is there. It’s short and sweet—I’ll copy and paste it in its entirety.

    CALL TO ORDER

    _____ Lansing _____ Cashman _____ Davis _____ Denison _____ Nelson ____Pokorney _____ Vohs

    APPROVAL OF AGENDA

    AGENDA

    1. Motion to close meeting to discuss pending litigation entitled Joseph Lee Lansing, et. al., v. City of Northfield, et. al., with attorney George Hoff, as allowed by Minn. Stat. Sec. 13D.05, Subd, 3 (b). Motion

    CLOSED MEETING – DISCUSSION OF PENDING LITIGATION

    ADJOURN

  16. Tracy: surely you are not saying that the duly elected Mayor should have to find out from the city website that a closed meeting has been called, are you?
    I believe the process would be this : the required number of counselors that wanted to call a meeting would go to the city administrator, and make the request. If it was within the framework of allowability for the suggested date(timing, noticing, etc.) the meeting would be approved. Then a notice would be sent to each of the council members by the city administrator, stating the request, the subject, the time and place. I would assume this would be an inter-office memo; I sincerely doubt the council feels the need to check the city website to know what’s going on.
    In the case of this particular situation it MIGHT also contain a legal opinion about the Mayor’s attendance. (Parenthetically, when the League of Women Voters observer called the City Attorney about last night’s closed meeting, Ms. Swanson said that there was no reason why the mayor could not attend; however, either he could CHOOSE to leave after the opening procedures of establishing the closed meeting. And of course the parties who called the meeting could ask him to consider leaving)
    My point about the irregularity of last night’s meeting process, is that the Mayor, did not receive the sort of inter-office memo one should expect from the council’s staff.
    No matter what the problems, the normal chain of procedure should not be disrupted.

  17. David L, it’s a little confusing, but my understanding is that Open Mic technically means a time at the beginning of a council meeting for citizens to speak to the council on any issue.

    For this meeting, citizens can only speak to the council on the 3 agenda items.

    So my headline for this blog post is technically inaccurate but I don’t know what other term to use for it.

    “Agenda item mic”??

  18. The City Charter states that a time for the “Hearing of the Public” be provided at every regular council meeting. In my experience, this time is not provided at a “special meeting”. The council voted , some time during Susan Hoyt’s administration to allow comments on agenda items, if a card was filled out and submitted, and so that process couldn’t easily be changed.

  19. Okay, that is what I get for going out on a limb and commenting as a “regular” citizen who does not always understand government. After reading more posts, I now understand the third discussion point–“Should any civil/criminal investigation have any bearing on city process or procedures point.”

    In answer to that question, I say NO. Processes and procedures should follow in all circumstances.

  20. According to Councilor Davis’s blog site, the Council may decide to take citizen input, but they are not required to do so.

  21. response to #22: if they decided not to allow comments on agenda items , they would have to rescind the resolution or whatever they used to institutionalize the agenda item comment card process.
    They can’t just suspend a process that they themselves instituted , unless it was not done with a vote process.

  22. Kiffi, in answer to your question, I don’t think the mayor can/should find out about a closed meeting via a website post. I was simply pointing out that the information was made public several days prior to the meeting.

    In addition, we don’t know that whatever regular policies for notification were *not* followed in this case. All we know is that Lee didn’t know about it till he read it in the paper, but we’re not sure why that is.

  23. My source tells me that the Mayor refuses to receive his packet at home like the rest of the city coucil, so he receives his whenever he goes to his office. I suggest that they get a signature for receiving his packet. The police dept. reports when the council receives their packet, but they don’t say that the mayor is excluded.

  24. As Chair of the Planning Commission, I always receive the Council Packet at home. In fact, this afternoon, I received the packet for the Monday, November 5th Council Meeting. However, I never received a Council Packet for the Council Meeting last night, Monday, October 29th. Perhaps there was something special about that meeting.

  25. No one seems to have taken the bait on their two minutes. Let me try.

    Dear Mr. Mayor and Council Members:

    First, let me express my deepest appreciation for your willingness to serve me and our town. Having spent just 10 months on the Council, I know that the pay is absymal, the hours demanding, the critics omnipresent, and the duty weighty.

    My grandfather used to tell me that no good deed goes unpunished. No matter what differences of opinion you have, I would guess that all of you think that this adage applies to you. The discharge of your duties, especially in these trying times, is not a sure, nor an easy path. But, it is necessary.

    Mayor Lansing, earlier this year, you took time out of your many duties to pull me aside and offer your advice. Your advice that, as Chamber president, I needed to close the perceived rift between the Chamber and the NDDC was timely, needed, and ultimately corrective. Since then, our organizations have cooperated in many areas, including the Retail Strategies Task Force. That was an example of true and unselfish leadership.

    All of you now have in front of you 14 issues, and a lawsuit to boot. The State Auditor would not, and cannot solve your problems. A private investigator will not solve your problems. Lastly, lawyers and courts are often medicene which is worse than the ailment regardless of who “wins”.

    The solution to the 14 issues, and the lawsuit exists right here in this room. You know it; I know it; the whole City of Northfield knows it.

    Now get to work. Make each of us proud to call you, “my councilman” and “my Mayor”. We want nothing more, and we will settle for nothing less.

  26. Actually, more correctly, the council is asking Lansing to “step aside”, temporarily–not “step down” as I said in #29.

  27. I don’t know that it will do any good to speak at open mic (although I certainly encourage everyone to do so) because the council seems to be operating on the”last man standing” principle, at this point.

    But I would like those who read this to consider this: The Mayor brought to the council the idea of gathering their (not citizens) complaints, and sending them to a state agency for review. Does that look like the action of a person with something to hide?

    The council voted to do so, but after the auditor rejected the idea, the council has unsuccessfully attempted to deal with the initial 14, the submitted 6, the leftover 8. How is that the mayor’s fault? He is not the only council member to bear that responsibility.

    Then the mayor files his lawsuit, which in its discovery has the possibility of exposing himself as much as any other councilor; does that look like the action of a person who believes he has something to hide?

    The Mayor has put HIMSELF, as well as others, in the spotlight, and does not seem hesitant about doing so. So if council is trying to blame the mayor, weaken his position, they appear to be doing it do lessen any possible impacts on themselves. (remember a big part of the confusion is that the “city” is named in the lawsuit, that includes the mayor has a seated member of the council!)

    It looks to me as if the Mayor is trying to do everything possible, no matter how difficult, to push the issues of conflict into the daylight.

  28. Tracy, if you think it is worth repeating, be my guest. I had assumed, based upon Griff’s post, that the Council would get all civil comments before the meeting.

  29. Curt, your comment #29. I had been told by one of the Council Members that tonight’s meeting had been called so that the public could hear how the Council was going to assure the citizens that the Leftover 8 items were going to be explored by an entity that was independent of both the elected officials and hired staff. This seems kind of a bait and switch to me.

  30. Griff,

    After reading the recent post on Northfield News regarding the lawsuit & tonights meeting I regret going out of town. I hope to read plenty about tonights meeting on this site.

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