Jenny Berg’s article about Dr. John Palmer’s decision to run for the St. Cloud City Council highlights something important. It is best highlighted when Dr. Palmer is quoted as saying “I’ve chosen consciously to talk about ‘we the people’ because I really think the current council and the person I’m running against has forgotten that they are servants to the people. In our republican form of government, it’s the people who are in charge.”
What Dr. Palmer implied, I’ll state explicitly. The men who represent the citizens of Wards 1, 2 and 3 don’t listen to the people of their wards. Jeff Johnson, who isn’t seeking re-election, is the only member of the City Council that consistently listens to his constituents and who sees what’s happening in this city.
Of the candidates running for the City Council, I’m confident that Dr. Palmer, Liz Baklaich, Paul Brandmire and Mike Conway will listen to the people. I’m confident of that because I know each of them and I’ve seen how good of listeners they are. It’s possible that the other candidates are decent listeners. I just can’t vouch for their listening skills.
Nobody should like the direction that St. Cloud is heading. The Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Kleis and the incumbents have told us that the city is heading in the right direction. Unemployment is low but Electrolux is moving. Herbergers is closing. Our airport is on life support. What part of that sounds like we’re heading in the right direction?
Palmer said his goals, if elected, are to grow the economy of St. Cloud and ensure citizens’ voices are heard. “We can no longer rely on simply increasing fees and sales taxes, increasing hotel and motel taxes and increasing property taxes. What we need to do is grow the economy in able to have sufficient revenue,” he said. “What you want more of, you certainly don’t tax.”
Palmer said the council needs to be open to differing opinions. “My main goal is to reform the council in such a way that the primary orientation is to listen to the people and to conduct the affairs of the council in such a way so that the people’s voice is not stifled,” he said.
“Let me give a concrete example — by having a public hearing two weeks before they are going to have a vote, and by excluding the public from participating in the debate at the time they are going to vote, you stifle public input. You stifle the quality of the debate.”
That’s what principled leadership sounds like.
In her speech during the open forum portion of the City Council meeting, Liz Baklaich said that the Council is irreparably damaged and couldn’t be fixed. In my opinion, she’s right. Dave Masters, Steve Laraway and John Libert aren’t suddenly going to start listening to the people. That isn’t who they are. I don’t often agree with Vice President Biden but he once said something that’s inescapably true. He said “A leader without followers is just a man out for a walk.” Masters, Laraway and Libert are just people out for a walk.
Frankly, Masters is a disgrace. When Dr. Palmer tried making a point at last Monday’s meeting, the Council President told Dr. Palmer to sit down. When he refused to sit because sitting would’ve violated a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, Masters said “Personally, I take offense with Dr. Palmer not following the rules and standing before the Council after being asked numerous times to sit down please. You have your time when you can speak during the Open Forum.”
I have a problem when elected officials ignore state Supreme Court rulings:
I feel like justice was finally served,” said Robin Hensel, whose refusal to move her chair at a 2013 Little Falls City Council meeting was at the heart of the court’s decision. Hensel, a grandmother and peace activist who frequently protests at Camp Ripley, said she never thought she would actually get charged when she moved a folding chair to the open space between the public galley and the City Council’s dais.
In its ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with Hensel, saying: “The statute is broad and ambiguous, prohibiting any conduct or speech that ‘disturbs an assembly or meeting,’ whether expressive or not. An individual could violate the statute by, for example, wearing an offensive t-shirt, using harsh words in addressing another person, or even raising one’s voice in a speech.”
Masters is part of the problem. In my opinion, Dr. Palmer is part of the solution because he’s a principled leader.