Well, the April 15 Council meeting held a few surprises after all. Here are the highlights.
Mark Nelson and Dan Sutton ran for Council President and Mark Nelson won. The first and second ballots were ties, 7 to 7. The mayor chose to abstain since he felt this vote was unique to the aldermen. Besides, a tie breaker would have instantly alienated half the group. After the second vote, Dan Sutton asked for a recess. When the meeting started again, Dan stated that his candidacy was about unification, not division, and he withdrew from the race. The third ballot was 13 for Nelson, 1 for Sutton.
Electing a Council President is the only situation where state law allows a secret ballot. It is clear that a close vote could create permanent tension in the group and poison the rest of the term. That being said, this is my personal opinion of who voted how:
For Sutton: Sutton, Carnell, Balzer, Blackburn, J. Mellone, L. Mellone, Lowerr
For Nelson: Owen, Reddin, Garvens, Ponto, Nelson, Mahkorn, Berg
I have a pretty good idea of who the lone Sutton vote was on the third ballot, and it wasn't Dan (or me!). The really sad thing is that lone alderman has repeatedly shown that he has no interest in the people's business. He just wants to settle scores, real or imagined.
The proposed north side fire station was another big topic. Director of Administration Dean Marquardt, Director of Parks Bill Kolstad and Interim Fire Chief Bill Selzer prepared the presentation and answered many questions from the Council. In the end, the aldermen agreed to the following:
The Park and Recreation Commission should study the proposal for placing the station in Fairview Park. A long list of concerns from aldermen and residents was created, including parking, playground equipment, stormwater management and landscaping.
The staff should prepare a report on the four alternative locations (all near Calhoun Road and Capitol Drive) comparing the sites for operational efficiency, cost and traffic impact, plus anything else that might come up.
Nothing about the stations was "decided" or "cast in stone". This is one more step in evaluating many options. With this dual track analysis, and under the best possible conditions, a decision might be made by the council in July.
There were perhaps 10 residents in the gallery for the fire station issue which is about the same as the number who attended last week's joint Plan Commission / Park Commission meeting. It was erroneously blogged that last week's meeting was packed. In fact, almost half of the visitors were developers, architects, lawyers, etc. for the Plan Commission meeting, plus several aldermen not on those Commissions (I was one of them).
I also made four referrals for committee action. Each has many details that I will describe in future blog entries as they are considered by committees. To summarize:
Review the yard waste disposal policy. Ideally, this would lead to a comprehensive residential collection system and phase out leaf burning completely. The real problem here will be money.
Expand televising to all city meetings. Start live broadcasts and internet audiocasts.
Provide aldermen with city managed email accounts. Some new technology makes this much easier than in the past.
Convert all city records to electronic form, accessible to anyone via the city web site. The challenge here will be cost and a perception that such widespread accessibility would be useless.
The meeting started about 7:45 and ended about 10:15, which is average.