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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Calling the Question

The council meeting on July 13th was very long. Even after tabling many agenda items, we didn't adjourn until nearly 2 AM on the 14th. One reason for this was the unreasonable and unnecessary length of time spent on many agenda items.

As an example, the discussion of the Markham Pond retaining wall ran for more than 40 minutes. This included 22 minutes of one resident (a long-time supporter of the mayor, it may be noted) recounting the history of his family, which used to own the land in question, and its legal disputes with the school district and the City of North Saint Paul prior to the incorporation of the City of Maplewood. Most of the other discussion was irrelevant or a rehash of points argued at numerous previous public meetings as the city sought to resolve this particular issue.

Eventually Will Rossbach called the question, asking that we vote on the matter and move on already. Unwilling to simply call the vote, Mayor Longrie insisted on a formal procedural motion to call the question and a vote on it. After the motion to call the question passed, Mayor Longrie proceeded to ask if there was any further discussion on the main motion!

This whole meeting demonstrated Maplewood's need for a new mayor. Part of the extreme length of this specific meeting was, I believe, Mayor Longrie's wish not to see a timely vote on the Council Corner issue. But in any meeting, she seems to lack the desire or ability to use her authority as chair to keep the meeting on track -- for example, by courteously insisting that residents keep their remarks brief and relevant to the issue under discussion.

I think that in Longrie's view, this "talk as long as you want about whatever you want" approach demonstrates her supposed commitment to openness in government. I'm sure that's what she's saying on the campaign trail. The problem is that while she repeatedly gives the podium camera to some people with axes to grind, the result is to make government less accessible to others -- the people who have actual business before the council. These residents and businesses are forced to sit through long and irrelevant tirades, sometimes from people who are not residents of the city (but who know that the way Longrie runs meetings lets them generate a lot of footage of themselves for their cable access TV shows), before we get to real business.

If you want efficiency and good government from your city council, we need a new mayor.

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