November 1 council meeting: the good, the bad, and the ugly

If you were at last night’s City Council meeting, what happened?

I was there for the whole thing but I’ve got to work all day today and won’t have time to write up my reactions till this weekend.

In the meantime, factual and opinionated comments are needed. And if you’re a blogger, please link to the permalink of this post so people call follow the pingback/trackback.

11/05 update: Here’s the entire audio of the council meeting.

Click play to listen. 3 hours, 5 minutes. Or download the MP3 (85MB).

Here are photos of the citizens who spoke to the Council at the meeting.

 

18 thoughts on “November 1 council meeting: the good, the bad, and the ugly”

  1. As the paper reported late in the afternoon yesterday, Mayor Lansing has removed his name from the lawsuit. He introduced a resolution regarding this action at the start of the meeting last night, “… that the council affirms and confirms the roles and responsibilities…” but it failed for lack of a second.

  2. Griff –

    Yeah…

    As you know, my Mom is visiting for the first time in six or sixteen years, for two days only, and I haven’t cleaned the bathrooms yet.

    I, too, plan to comment on this uplifting and hopeful or confusing and discouraging experience later this weekend.

    I will reveal that my Hero of the Week is Jim Pokorney.

    More, later…

    – Ross

  3. Guys, I assumed that at least ONE of you would be staying up till 2:00a doing a writeup. What kind of lazy pseudo-“citizen journalists” with full-time jobs are you?

  4. I only stayed through the first agenda item. There was an agreement that the communication and leadership issues should be discussed at a Council retreat. I thought that the Mayor withdrawing from the lawsuit, and the decision to continue to talk about effective leadership in a retreat setting were both steps in the right direction.

  5. David L.,

    I agree that those seem like positive steps, or positive attempts at positive steps, at least. In effect, the Mayor withdrawing from the lawsuit may clear up some of the technical issues regarding leadership and agenda-setting (the resolution asking him the step aside, etc…)

    You could also say it’s a cynical step; meaning the Mayor can now ignore the resolution asking him to step aside from some of his leadership roles by simply saying: “Hey, it’s not like I’m suing you.”

    In reality, isn’t it the same stink in a different wrapper?

    Is it really going to mean anything? It’s not as if the council, city staff and Northfield citizens are now going to think the Mayor is impartial and objective about the lawsuit.

    It’s not like you can un-crash the car. This vehicle needs to be repaired meticulously by all involved.

    In that light, any amount of extra listening and talking the council and staff and the Mayor can do at a retreat may ultimately be a much more helpful step.

  6. The News article Griff linked to in #6 says the council is planning a “retreat” to work out its problems. I suppose this is better than auditors, investigators and attorneys, but isn’t there something a bit silly or summer campish about a “retreat”?

    Best case scenario: The retreat climaxs with Roder and Lansing embracing while the council sings “Kum-bay-ah”.

    Worst case scenario: Bedtime hi jinks involving Lansing and Roder, warm containers of water, handsfull of shaving cream, feathers and short sheeted beds leads to more even more discord, investigations, audits and lawsuits.

    Proceed with caution, councilors.

  7. The News writeup was pretty good and seemed to be an accurate overview of the meeting. I was only present for about the first hour, having a conflict with an orchestra/choir concert at the high school.

    I heard the initial wrangling and confusion about whether to have open mic (which allows for comments not related to the agenda items for that night’s meeting) or just approve the agenda as it was (which allowed for public comment but only those relating to the items at hand). That discussion, which felt like it lasted at least ten minutes, was indicative of the sort of misfires that appear to happen regularly between the council and the mayor. Mayor Lansing made a motion to modify the agenda to include an open mic portion. I am making the assumption that he did this because he thought the public would not have an opportunity to comment unless there was open mic, but I really don’t know if that was the reason. The councilors appeared both irritated and confused by this proposed addition to the agenda and discussion ensued. I don’t know why experienced elected officials either didn’t get the difference between open mic and public comments, or why it would have seemed a good use of everyone’s time to call a special meeting and then have open mic. Whatever.

    Following this was the reading of both Lee Lansing’s and Scott Davis’s respective resolutions. Lansing’s resolution was passed out at the meeting; Davis’s resolution was distributed ahead of time. Lansing’s resolution failed for lack of a second, and public comment was allowed after the reading of Davis’s resolution. I heard about 45 minutes of that discussion before I had to leave.

    The gist of public comment has been distilled very well in the Northfield News writeup and in Dave Hvistendahl’s caustic summary above.

    I think several things were accomplished at the meeting, if “accomplished” isn’t too strong a word. One, we have at least for now established that Mayor Lansing is not going to step down and the council is not going to ask him to. Two, there was sort of an airing-out of the interpersonal dynamic if not the issues, and the public was able to witness the Keystone-cops-like procedural atmosphere and see the disruptive nature of some of the interactions. Three, the council and the mayor heard repeatedly through public comments that they need to figure out a way to put aside/work through/resolve the infighting and get back to business.

    I wish I had been able to attend the rest of the meeting. What did the rest of you hear?

  8. I was very disappointed in the NFNews write-up of the meeting. I think you would have also been disappointed, Tracy, if you had been able to stay for the entire meeting. I would say that the most disturbing aspect of it was at the end of the first two hours, or so, when a discussion occurred about the impact of the Mayor withdrawing his name from the lawsuit. It was obvious that the “battle lines” were still drawn from the many negative comments regarding the Mayor’s “intent”, his “heart and mind”, etc.The most cogent comment as far as how to productively move ahead was from Arnie Nelson, who said”we can’t unring the bell. What are we supposed to do, shoot the Mayor”.
    Thank you Arnie, for pointing out how entrenched councilperson’s positions have become.
    That, coupled with the city administrator’s statements about what investigation information would likely be available, and when, was very disheartening .
    Many people attended; the room occupancy of 68 was enforced (as it had NOT been during some of the rental code meetings) and there were more people out in the hall, watching the TV.
    It remains to be seen what true productivity will come out of this meeting.

  9. Sorry, again …#11 was kiffi , not victor. It seems I’m making a point FOR griff when he keeps urging us to get separate e-mail accounts.

  10. I’ve put up the audio of the entire 11/1 council meeting (3 hrs) at the top of this post. Click to play or download the MP3.

    If you want to comment on a section of the audio, for example, something the mayor or a councilor or a citizen said at the meeting, be sure to note the time segment, eg, “…. at the 1 hr 25 minute mark…”

  11. Griff – Thanks for posting the audio. I went back to listen to the end of the meeting because I left early.

    As I listened to the discussion again, the meeting was quite a display of small town democracy. What could have been a free-for-all, was a fairly well managed airing by the townspeople against their public officials, and a heartfelt attempt by the public officials to try to contain a process that has divided them as of late.

    Hence, I don’t agree with the Northfield News or Dave Hvistendahl. I got the impression that the Mayor and the City Council want government to improve, and they intend to bust their rumps to make it happen. What they can’t seem to agree upon is a solution to resolve their differences.

    The solutions seem to go from Pokorney’s, “Let’s solve our own problems, right here, and right now.” to Davis’s, “We need some fact finding to determine if there is a problem.” to Lansing’s, “We might need a lawsuit to get to the facts.” The biggest obstacle appears to be the problems related to what is public and private data. Everyone seems to have a different opinion about what can or should be discussed.

    Given that the Police Chief has criminal allegations pending against the City Administrator, the Mayor has sued the City, and that a private investigator is investigating problems within the City, I thought that the public officials did an admirable job of trying to get something positive accomplished.

  12. You’re welcome, Dave (audio file of the meeting).

    With the recent $100,000 upgrade to the council chambers audio/video infrastructure, Councilor Pokorney has told me that the video of all council meetings should now be available for citizens to view.

    I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be via live web streaming or via a web archive or both. Anyone know?

  13. David L.- Thanks for a level headed response to the meeting. Would you like to run for an office? I’d sure vote for you.

  14. Griff,

    If you want to view one of the meetings you have to go to the city administrator’s office & pick up the video tape.

  15. The lack of comments on this meeting, and then on the subsequent city council meeting on Nov. 5th, indicates to me that there is little more for the “public” to say.
    There is little point on harping on the same old questions; why the council doesn’t answer them, why the newspaper doesn’t ask them, why the council seems to ignore the public comment at open mic when it’s a lot of the NON- usual suspects, etc.etc.etc.
    After the editorial POV in the paper, re: the “10 Myths”, it seems the newspaper still hasn’t asked the hard questions on some of those, but obviously they feel they have. It looks to me like they do more accepting of answers from persons who do not have completely unbiased positions, rather than asking the definitive hard questions.
    Maybe that perception of mine is simply frustration with the way things drag on and on.
    If this solution timeline continues, the resolve may be at what had seemed a long time distant, the ballot box … filing for the primary begins the first week of July.
    Are you content to wait?

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