Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Mayor of New Brighton Engineers a Cozy Coup

So I went to the New Brighton City Council meeting on Tuesday, because I'd gotten wind that there would be skulduggery afoot. That's putting it mildly. Our friends at Enlighten New Brighton pick up the story:
 At the December 12 New Brighton City Council meeting not only did the council (with the exception of Council Member Gina Bauman who continued to stand up for the people of New Brighton in her final meeting) ram through a large tax levy increase and a hefty utilities increase, they also voted themselves an extra year on their terms of office. This occurred at the very end of a long and tedious meeting where many who started watching at home or in person likely gave up on it.
It was exceptionally tedious. The deed was done over two hours after the meeting began. How did it happen?
They did this in a sneaky manner by emphasizing that the purpose of the ordinance they passed was to improve voter participation numbers by moving city elections to even years. The wording of the ordinance conveniently omitted the fact that a recently changed state law provides that if the change moves the election year such that an existing term would expire before the new election day the term would, by default, be extended if the ordinance language did not explicitly address existing terms. This is exactly how the ordinance was carefully worded.
The upshot is this:
  • Mayor Valerie Johnson rewarded herself with an extra year before she has to face the voters; instead of having an election in 2019, she now gets to stay in her sinecure until 2020.
  • City council members Paul Jacobsen and Mary Burg, elected to four year terms in 2015, now get the extra year as well.
  • Incoming council members Graeme Allen and Emily Dunsworth now have a five-year first term.
You might remember Mayor Johnson, whose bravura tantrum concerning her own idiosyncratic formulation of white privilege earned her a few minutes on national television recently:


Since most of our fellow citizens weren't aware of the Mayor's, ahem, deportment, and because a concurrent school levy referendum was on the ballot, she was re-elected a month ago, to a two-year term that she has now made a 3-year term. Almost no one in the city was aware Mayor Johnson and her colleagues were planning this particular move. Our friends at Enlighten New Brighton pick up the story yet again:
The council's action wasn't a spur of the moment decision or an unintended consequence of a poorly worded ordinance - it was carefully and deliberately calculated and plotted at a council work session that took place on November 28.

Fortunately council work sessions are recorded and available on the city web site (http://newbrightonmn.gov/about/city-council/materials-and-media/). Unfortunately a lot of people probably did not view the term extension discussion as it occurred at over an hour into the meeting.
Go to the ENB site to see the actual video. Hit the link. Take a few minutes.

There's more to the story, as there always is. We'll be returning to the story in the coming days.

10 comments:

Paul petersen said...

The point that needs to see the light is that these same Council members could have put the longer terms of office on this last election ballot. Instead they chose to sneakily extend their terms of office after this election turned out favorable to them.
The outgoing Council members did this after debating the forethought of it for two years- losing in court twice- and then persisting after a law changed earlier last year to then allow it.
So Mayor Val Johnson ran for a two year term knowing full well she would extend her term of office to three.

Sharon Doffing said...

Rise up and start writing and insisting these despots resign while you can still take back your government with a mere pen

Sharon Doffing said...

Rise up and start writing and insisting these despots resign while you can still take back your government with a mere pen

Bike Bubba said...

The proper response at this point would be a recall effort, if that's possible. You change the rules quietly? Go for it. We'll change your employment status openly in response.

Sharon Doffing said...

There is absolutely NO way for a recall. New Brighton will be stuck for 3 more years with this Mayor who campaigned for a two year term knowing that the current Council would change terms-because she tried it before and lost a legal battle twice---she did wait for a law to change and persisted again so there's a lot of forethought by the Council to do this after this election. By the way this same Mayor and Council could have/should have had the new longer terms on the Nov 7 ballot. But these same Mayor/Council waited until the election results turned out favorable with two City Council members-elect who will get sworn in in January. The two Council members elect ran for 4year terms but instead will get 5 years since they are favorable for her.
The ONLY thing that can be done now is for citizens to demand her to resign now before she gets sworn in. It's very reasonable for citizens to stand up to this blatant abuse of power. As the quote goes:
Evil prevails when good men do nothing. This is a call to action. Make those calls, write the emails. Picket city hall.

Sharon Doffing said...

There is absolutely NO way for a recall. New Brighton will be stuck for 3 more years with this Mayor who campaigned for a two year term knowing that the current Council would change terms-because she tried it before and lost a legal battle twice---she did wait for a law to change and persisted again so there's a lot of forethought by the Council to do this after this election. By the way this same Mayor and Council could have/should have had the new longer terms on the Nov 7 ballot. But these same Mayor/Council waited until the election results turned out favorable with two City Council members-elect who will get sworn in in January. The two Council members elect ran for 4year terms but instead will get 5 years since they are favorable for her.
The ONLY thing that can be done now is for citizens to demand her to resign now before she gets sworn in. It's very reasonable for citizens to stand up to this blatant abuse of power. As the quote goes:
Evil prevails when good men do nothing. This is a call to action. Make those calls, write the emails. Picket city hall.

Sharon Doffing said...

A point of further clarification:
People mistakenly assume the newly elected officials made this decision.
It is the same City Council that remains in effect until the New Council members get sworn in during January that made the term extending decision.
You have to ask yourself, why did they wait until after the election to change the terms?
Why not before the election took place and put the extra years of office correctly on the ballot.
And, then it becomes apparent why.

Bike Bubba said...

You know, if she'd tried and failed a couple of times, it strikes me that voters had to know that the fix was in, sad to say. And it's hard to fix stupid. They knew what they were getting into, and they're going to get it, good and hard.

Sorry, gracious host and New Brighton-ites. Hope I'm wrong and the mayor ends up on the business end of a corruption investigation or something, but that's how I see it.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Time to go Alinksy on them. A citizen protest outside City Hall where the doors get chained shut. Maybe you'll get some TV cameras to show up (as if). Start referring to the mayor as "Mayor LePetomaine" in all media.

Or maybe it is time for Three Billboards Outside New Brighton, MN.

Mr. D said...

You know, if she'd tried and failed a couple of times, it strikes me that voters had to know that the fix was in, sad to say. And it's hard to fix stupid. They knew what they were getting into, and they're going to get it, good and hard.

Yes and no. In my experience, most people don't pay much attention to municipal races unless the politicians screw the pooch. There's a very long history here, but you'd be surprised how few people know about it. There was almost no coverage of any of this in the local newspaper, and while the Star Tribune wrote a few articles about the first attempt to change the laws, you needed to look on about page 5 of the metro edition to find the coverage.

Sharon Doffing (thanks for weighing in, by the way) is correct about the motivations and the strategy involved here. The local politicians are assuming the citizenry is asleep, with good reason. They don't get the story unless they dig into it. My blog does not have a huge readership, although my stuff does get picked up elsewhere. I don't buy ink by the barrel. It's tough to get people's attention, although I'm guessing when the property tax bills hit in the spring, people will start to realize what happened. That's where the good and hard part comes in.

Or maybe it is time for Three Billboards Outside New Brighton, MN.

Not a bad idea, actually.