Column: People’s business should be done in openThe R-E editorial Saturday March 27 underscored the type of hard feelings that misunderstandings can produce.
By: Mike Schultz, Red Wing, The Republican Eagle
The R-E editorial Saturday March 27 underscored the type of hard feelings that misunderstandings can produce.
There have been mixed messages regarding the Open Meeting Law. There is a legal opinion that follows the “letter of the law” which states that when no official action is taken, meetings are not required to be open to the public.
The R-E presented a broader interpretation. The editorial also points out that at times meeting the objective is challenging.
The people’s business should be done in the open.
My intention is to set a new standard for transparent government. Toward that goal, I have requested that this matter be on the City Council agenda for April 12. A clear policy is essential in order to create consistent government practices that all residents can rely on.
The purpose of council committees is to share the workload. Committees have no decision-making authority. They report their findings to the full City Council, which chooses how to proceed.
Some situations call for closed sessions of both committee and regular City Council meetings. I will review each request for a closed session going forward to ensure it meets privacy criteria in order to cultivate the most transparent process ever.
An unambiguous policy would have prevented some recent confusion.
Every two years, Red Wing completes a new agreement allowing federal reimbursement for some expenses incurred as the “first responder” to the Xcel Energy nuclear power plant at Prairie Island. We usually recoup around $60,000.
So far, they have not been able to articulate exactly what is required of us in order to be eligible for the next two years.
The R-E editorial stated that copies of related correspondence were not available at the March 22 City Council meeting.
Copies were offered after the letters were introduced for discussion of the ongoing negotiations during council concerns — the time at the end of each City Council meeting when members may bring up anything they wish. They were not available at the beginning because it was not on the agenda.
Staff automatically makes 25 copies of all information distributed during the meeting. If a citizen hands something out, copies are made as well. If the R-E was not aware of this, it is unlikely other attendees knew of it.
I intend to stress communication in a new Transparency in Government Policy. Meeting attendees will know where to find copies of each document being discussed.
I also want a renewed effort to ensure citizen notification regarding upcoming votes to be taken by the City Council.
I hope to hear from residents as we formulate the new guidelines. Please call me at home with your ideas (651) 388-3178 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Mike Schultz is Red Wing City Council president.