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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SV Mayor Sandy Martin to Residents: "No Debate for You!"

Like the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame, Mayor Sandy Martin and the Shoreview City Council are apparently easily annoyed. Disturbed by a citizen with property inside city boundaries whose frequent "attacks" at city council meetings became repetitive and "escalated in a way that it's disturbing," they have changed the rules for citizen comment to make clear there will be no debating with council members at council meetings.

Apparently, the city council does not like being challenged. Especially not repeatedly, by a citizen who thinks the city council works for citizens and owes them a duty to listen and serve. Kudos to Kate Garlock, of the SV-Arden Hills Bulletin staff for bringing the city's anti-citizen attitude to light in this week's issue of the paper. To be fair, this citizen's problem has apparently been dealt with in court and there is no legal action open to the council regarding the citizen's piece of land. But to deal with an irritating citizen by closing down all debate with all who attend the meetings? To cut down on citizen time, put citizen comments at the end, and try to restrict them to "make announcements regarding events ... or to let the council know about problems they may be experiencing like increased traffic on their street?"

This fits with my own limited experience with the Council. When member Ady Wickstrom stopped at my house last fall to campaign, her response to my questions about the Neighborhood Snoop (or Beautification, depending on your point of view) program made clear that with the Council, your options are like it or lump it:

Wickstrom: Hi, I'm looking for your support this year on the Shoreview City Council.
Me: Can I ask you a question?
Wickstrom, eagerly: Sure, absolutely.
Me: Why does the city need to pay people to go around looking for exterior code violations, rather than rely on angry neighbors to pick up the telephone?
Wickstrom, looking confused: Well, the council was getting a lot of telephone calls about problems around the city. We thought it would work better to be proactive.
Me: But in the current economic environment, when you can rely on an angry neighbor to pick up the phone, why spend city resources paying employees to troll for violations? Wouldn't it be more efficient to use employee time to address the specific situations those citizens were calling about?
Wickstrom: Well, no, because we were just getting so many calls.
Me: You mean, the Council doesn't want to get a lot of phone calls from citizens?
Wickstrom: Well, no, of course we want to hear from citizens.
Me: Well, then, where's the problem? Why not rely on the free means of hearing about code problems, rather than spending city employee's time on it?
Wickstrom: Well, no, we thought it would be better to be proactive.

I gave up. Shoreview's City Council is determined to continue to spend, spend, spend like it's 2005 (new skate park for $100GRAND anybody? new indoor play-park at taxpayer expense to generate money for the city council to squander, anybody?), and then ignore or quash all citizen opposition. Their view is clearly that no reasonable people oppose city spending, and no reasonable city council can be expected to spend their precious council meeting time debating citizens.

So here's how it works: if you want to complain about council action before it's a done deal, you have to go to the City's website and read the agenda, available not later than the Friday before the next meeting (meetings are the first and third Mondays of every month, 7 pm Shoreview City hall; next one, March 2). Go to the meeting, wait (apparently, if more changes happen as anticipated, you'll wait until the END of the meeting), and take your no more than three minutes to say your piece. And don't expect any response, because you're not going to get any. (There is another option: Mayor Martin keeps office hours on Tuesday afternoons from 4:30-6:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, and I encourage all citizens to engage her in debate there--never mind that it's the dinner hour; what did you expect, convenience? Geez. You people. Do you ever learn?) If you don't like an action after it's already been taken, too bad; don't expect the City Council to consider CHANGE. That's for Obama, not the City of Shoreview. Ah yes, representative government at its finest.


Blogger Todd said...

You are correct, the issue did go to Court. But, the City forgot to obtain as required for a complete and accurate Application to an Administrative Agency "Proof of Equitable Interest". Therefore, the Application appears to be incomplete and possibly anything or action after that is VOID. It never happened.

I leave you with the following quote: "The dominant purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the widespread practice of Government suppression of embarassing information".-Supreme Court Justice, William Orval Douglas

7/29/2009 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Galt, please call me, I'm that guy.


7/29/2009 6:57 PM  

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