On a number of occasions during my tenure as Mayor I have felt the need to address the Council publicly, and to remind my colleagues that in order to be be effective in our jobs it is important that we maintain a level of protocol and respect in our deliberations. This is expressed in how we speak to each other, to the public or to our City Staff. In recent weeks I have personally observed, and have had it pointed out to me by various members of our community that it appears that it has become acceptable for staff to be discredited and put down in public.
That is not right and it should not be acceptable in these Chambers. That is not to say that we must agree with staff opinions or with their recommendations or that we cannot question the basis for such opinions. But when they speak from their position as professionals, they must be respected.
Councilors Kris Vohs and Rhonda Pownell are quoted in the article as also being unhappy with the tenor at times at meetings and elsewhere. No word from the others:
Councilors Betsey Buckheit and Suzie Nakasian declined to comment for this story. Councilors Patrick Ganey and Erica Zweifel could not be reached for comment.
Since I’m someone often accused of having a bug up his ass about the importance of civility in conversations, I’m interested in this issue. But neither the article nor Rossing’s statement mention any specifics, so it’s hard to know what’s going on. Sometimes when people are critical of others, that’s seen as automatic disrespect, whereas I believe that public criticism can be done in a way that’s respectful.
Can anyone who’s been at Council meetings lately or who has watched the proceedings via cable TV or live streaming cite some interactions that might be examples of disrespect towards city staff by councilors?
This is a PDF of Northfield City Councilor Kris Vohs’ letter to his fellow councilors last week. In it, he addresses issues related to:
Inaccuracy of information from citizens
Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code
Business Park Master Plan
The short paragraph at the end addresses his concerns about council relationships:
Bulling [sic] is a big focus among young people now. I don’t think it’s a council we are doing a very good job in this area. We have bordered on bulling at some of our meetings. We call it disrespect and we are setting an example for our young people. This is my opinion.
Vohs, who holds one of the council’s two at-large seats, says that the stress caused by the regular battles between council members is wearing thin and that if they don’t abate he’ll call it quits. “It’s just not worth it,” Vohs said on Thursday after issuing an open letter to his fellow council members.
Vohs said he would have preferred to speak publicly, but recent agenda changes gave him no forum. Now in his third term, Vohs said this council — out of all he has been part of — is the “hardest to work with.” And, he added, “They just don’t like each other.”
Vohs’ vague statement about bullying in a letter and then detailed critical comments to a newspaper reporter seem to me to be a very poor approach to trying to solve relationship problems.
Whether or not his complaints are justified/accurate, why wouldn’t he bring this up at the end of a council meeting? Why not call individual councilors on the phone or meet with them 1 to 1?
I’ve removed several comments, including my own intervention comments, from the tail end of the wind turbine discussion today. The exchanges were not relevant to the topic and in my judgment, some of them violated our guidelines. The whole thing detracted from the generally excellent conversation that occurred in that comment thread over several weeks (170+ comments).
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.)