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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Council Corner Issue Tabled

Our discussion of the Council Corner did not finish on the meeting of July 13-14. The mayor's delaying tactics -- running the clock out as long as possible on every item that night, keeping the meeting going into the wee hours, even attempting to continue discussion on an item after we had voted to call the question -- worked. Kathy couldn't stay around to the end of the meeting. A vote on the resolution was delayed until this week, at which point the mayor's own article had gone to press. Will and Kathy both indicated that they would voluntarily not write their scheduled columns during the election campaign. So for this year the issue was a bit moot.

This past Monday, I read the following statement into the record and withdrew my support for my own resolution:
I hereby withdraw my second for the resolution in item L5 to suspend the Council Corner column. To explain my decision, I am submitting this statement for the record. I ask that this statement be included in the minutes in its entirety.

I still support this resolution in principle. However, I can no longer vote for it in good conscience, because to do so would mean giving an even greater advantage to the person who manipulated the rules and her authority as chair for her own benefit, to prevent it from being passed a week ago.

This episode makes clear to all observers the power that a mayor holds simply by being chair, even if she has a minority of support on the council. I believe that, by keeping last Monday's meeting running long into the night, inhibiting its progress at every step, even going so far as to spend twenty minutes reading an extended version of the lengthy letter she wished to publish in the August newsletter, she purposely delayed a timely vote on this resolution.

The result of the delay, as I am sure was intended, was that the August newsletter already has gone to press with her article included. To pass the resolution now would only serve to magnify her unfair advantage over others.

As individuals, councilmembers may choose not to run columns as they are scheduled this fall, if they feel it is inappropriate. I believe both Will and Kathy indicated at our last meeting that they would voluntarily abstain from writing in the newsletter during their campaigns. They should be given the opportunity to make that choice and to receive credit for doing the right thing, just as the mayor made her choice to get her taxpayer-funded campaign message out by any means necessary.

In the place of the original motion, I would like to offer a substitute motion to table this resolution until January 2010. At that time the council takes up its annual review of council policy and procedures. Long ahead of the next campaign, the new council can engage in a discussion about what is or is not appropriate use of the city newsletter during election season.
After I withdrew my second, Will withdrew his motion for the resolution. The substitute motion to table passed 4-1. While the resolution was blocked for this year, my hope is that we can adopt this as a standing policy for the council newsletter editorial in future election years.

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