« Home

John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Arbitrary Rules, Misleading Data

At the December 11th, 2006, city council meeting, I spoke twice. I didn't go to the meeting with any plan to talk — these comments were just provoked by events at the meeting. The clip below, my first trip to the podium, took place during visitor presentations.

The first visitor to speak that evening had been an attorney, warning that the council's planned action, to fire his client (a highly respected, 20+ year veteran of the police force) simply by eliminating his position in the 2007 budget, ran afoul of state law and civil service protections. When he offered to respond to any questions from the council (since the budget was up for a vote this evening), the mayor told him, "We don't have exchange of dialogue at visitor presentations."

This was a rule I had never heard before. In fact, I had witnessed dialogue in the visitor presentations at many previous council meetings. I even had notes on my laptop from some of those meetings, recording who the dialogue was with and what it was about.

Obviously, this attorney raised uncomfortable issues and the council majority didn't want to talk with him. So Mayor Logrie pulled a new rule out of thin air and used it to send him away, or she dredged up a previously ignored rule and decided to enforce it just then because it suited her.

There are two things that really bugged me about this.

First, creating or enforcing rules in this kind of arbitrary manner offends my notion of the rule of law and a basic respect for process. We have enshrined in our Constitution (Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3) that "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed." You don't make up rules after the fact, and you don't make up rules to single out and punish a specific individual. And you shouldn't enforce rules only on the people you don't like.

Second, this was completely unnecessary! The mayor could have said, "We choose not to respond to you." Simple! Instead, she conjured a hitherto unknown rule, as though to persuade the audience that she's as much a victim of circumstances as this attorney and his client.

This incident may seem trivial. Unfortunately, it illustrates a pattern we have seen repeatedly with this council majority — making up, selectively enforcing, or misinterpreting rules so that they can feign helplessness while enacting their agenda. They also have a related talent for ignoring rules, like those civil service laws, when the constraints don't suit their purposes.

Anyhow, I decided to call attention to the novelty of this rule, and suggest that if it is indeed a rule they should formalize it and apply it to everyone.

Then I discussed a completely different topic — a very misleading salary "study" that the city manager had published in the November city newsletter. He felt compelled to publish the salaries of half of the members of a newly formed city employee bargaining unit, the Maplewood Confidential and Supervisory Association. The speaker before me had waved a copy of this article, while expressing outrage at the salaries and apparently huge increases demanded by this new union. I believe the city manager was trying to elicit citizen outrage like this, to use against the city employees who had recently asserted their right to organize.

There were all kinds of things wrong with this deceptive work of propaganda (note, if you look at the fine print, that the table compares salary alone in 2006 to salary plus benefits in 2007, for example). I wanted to focus on one simple and amusing observation — that its big claim is basically that half of this group of employees had above-average salaries. How surprising is that?

Labels: , ,

Newer Posts Older Posts

Posts by Date

Powered by Blogger & Blogger Templates. Customized by Michelle Nephew.
Contact me at