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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


You Take That Back!!

At the April 14th and May 15th meetings, Mayor Longrie devoted council meeting time to complaining about an entry I posted to this blog back in early April, which she thinks is inaccurate. (She also did not appreciate my flying saucer cartoon.)

The specific sentence that the mayor has demanded that I change is this: "On the contrary, the only reasons I recall were that Erik seemed to want to punish Mr. Schreier for allowing Will Rossbach to place lawn signs on other Maplewood properties he owns; and Mayor Longrie wanted to vote against the developer because in her view he always got his way."

With all due respect to the mayor's office, I do not feel it is appropriate for me to censor my personal blog according to her desires. Besides the principle of free speech, which the mayor herself has been known to defend from time to time, I feel that changing this text would be dishonest.

This sentence is part of an e-mail that I sent to a resident who had asked me about the vote on the Beaver Lake final plat. To change the text of the e-mail on my website would misrepresent the actual message that I sent to this individual. Like what I wrote or not, I did write it and send it from my city e-mail account, and censoring it after the fact won't change that.

The sentence describes "...the only reasons I recall..." concerning that vote. This makes the sentence a description of my consciousness at the moment that I wrote it, which the mayor is in no position to dispute. The mayor's recollection obviously differs from mine. On the other hand, several people have told me that they too recall her making such a comment -- which may not have been in the formal setting of a council meeting, and may not have been recorded. Even if we imagine for the sake of argument that my recollection was faulty, or that I and other people misinterpreted some statements that she made, the statement that it was my recollection remains true. Again, I believe it would be dishonest to revise this to make a false statement about what was in my mind at the time I wrote this e-mail.

Let's keep in mind that the mayor's recollection is not perfect, as we've seen in the past. At the April 14th council meeting, for example, she also complained that she had never heard from the LMCIT about a concern with "creating grounds for a plaintiff to argue that stated reasons for a decision were pretextual." I reminded her of the specific letter from the LMCIT, which she had also received, which clearly made that very point. If she did not remember this crucial point among the concerns expressed to us by the LMCIT (albeit one the council perhaps did not want to hear), to me that raises the question of whether her memory is sometimes selective.

A Helpful Suggestion
Here is an alternative way that the mayor could have resolved her problem with this matter. Let us suppose that her ultimate concern is that she would like people not to come away with the impression that she makes decisions on the basis of grudges, personal resentments, and the like. She might simply have responded by saying that her recollection differs from mine, and she would like people to know that, and left it there.

Even better, she could have written a comment responding to the posting itself on my website. Then anyone who visits and reads my posting could also read her disagreement with my recollection of the facts.

This would have had the added benefit of not making it an issue in a council meeting. After all, if her aim is to quell what she feels is an unfair impression created by a portion of one archived article out of the 150 that are now found on my website, it hardly seems productive to start out by calling such attention to it at a council meeting, without so much as e-mailing me privately with her concerns beforehand. I guess I should be grateful to her for repeatedly plugging my blog, though.

As it stands, her promise to keep bringing this up at council meeting after council meeting until she gets her way, may not convey the image she may be intending to defend -- of a person who would never let personal grudges or resentments dictate the way she handles the public's business on the council.


John, I really admire your ability to remain calm in the face of Ms. Longrie's erratic and unprofessional behavior. Thank you.

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