« Home

John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Blowing Smoke

Have you heard that nonsense about Maplewood wanting to ban wood fires?

If so, you've encountered the disinformation campaign spearheaded by the supporters of Mayor Diana Longrie and others opposed to Will Rossbach. As has been the case in so many past elections, these people can get into office only by spreading lies and distortions, and by tearing down their opponents. This year it's wood smoke; two years ago it was the bogus claim, promoted by the team of DelRay Rokke and Rebecca Cave, that there were plans to sell city parks and open space to developers. Four years ago there were baseless claims about closing fire stations. No doubt we'll see last minute efforts to exploit every one of these lies again. Even if their tactics don't win new supporters, their fundamental strategy is to turn people off and suppress voting. If turnout is low enough, the thinking goes, their devoted core of supporters will be a majority on election day.

Sometimes they spread their messages through anonymous flyers (like the scare tactic pieces the mayor's husband was caught distributing earlier this year, or the bigoted ones that have more recently appeared). Sometimes they use websites (such as the one that often features Erik Hjelle's bile, and has a domain name registered to council candidate Dave Hafner), cable access TV shows, and photocopied "newspapers" that loudly proclaim independence and non-partisanship while blatantly promoting their candidates.

It's instructive to actually watch the meetings of the wood smoke task force. From the outset, Rossbach made it clear that a ban was not an option. The point was to find ways to improve the ordinance, in ways that both pro- and anti-burning residents could support.

It quickly became clear that a number of people on the task force (among them two people who would be candidates in the primary, Delray Rokke and John Wykoff) were not motivated to find consensus or improve the city code. Their agenda was to make the whole affair into a distorted political issue that could be used against Rossbach in the upcoming campaign. Obstruction and misinformation were the order of the day. Members of this faction would spend a large percentage of the meeting arguing loudly over whether or not to approve the agenda, or disputing the minutes of the previous meeting. Every meeting, with a new audience of angry residents turned out by a new batch of misleading anonymous flyers, they would declare that the true, secret purpose of the task force was to ban wood fires, and would attempt to argue with this straw man in an effort to keep anything from actually being done.

At one meeting, while Dave Hafner yelled at task force members from the audience, John Wykoff even began shouting, "Don't vote for Will Rossbach!"

Is it any wonder that some members of the task force stopped showing up? You can understand the frustration of the people who were there in good faith, on both sides of the issue, while this group hijacked each meeting with their malicious political agenda. The same strategy these people use in city elections — drive away enough reasonable people so that your partisans constitute a majority of those who remain — ultimately enabled them to vote against any changes whatsoever, even to update the city code to match the current state fire code (which supercedes city code anyhow).

For certain people, and the candidates they support (whether it's Rebecca Cave falsely taking credit for moving visitor presentations to the start of council meetings, Dave Hafner declaring at the LWV Forum that there should be no time limits on abusive visitor presentations, or Diana Longrie taking pride in how she mismanages our meetings), this is what they mean by "citizen participation." It means turning city meetings into a cesspool of personal attacks, defamation, and invective. It means driving away reasonable, normal people, and leaving most of the "citizen" voices in the room to be those of the malicious, the obsessed, the dishonest, and the delusional, the failed candidates and the out-of-town agitators who just come for the face time on camera — and then declaring that their voices must be heeded, because "they are the citizens!" and "the citizens are the city!"

A few candidates — such as Jim Llanas, Kathleen Juenemann, and Will Rossbach — think that being a leader means also representing the people who are not in the room. Speaking for the people who elected you because they trust your judgement, and, having jobs and families and lives to live, they have better things to do than be there themselves all the time. Representing the needs of the whole community, not just the loud and obsessive few.

When you vote next week, ask yourself which candidates will be representing you next year, whether or not you're there in the room when they make decisions.

Labels: ,

Thanks, John. Let's hope the people of Maplewood get the message and elect Jim, Will and Kathy.

Well put! These wolves in sheeps clothing need to be run out of city politics for good. They are but truly the dregs of Maplewood. Keep up your excellent work, Mr. Nephew!

Post a Comment

Newer Posts Older Posts

Posts by Date

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