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.