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Robert's Rules of Orders gets bobbed
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Robert's Rules of Order came under fire at the St. Croix Falls City Council meeting on Monday night when Alderwoman Joy Zasadny broached the subject.
“According to our ordinances, we have the right to suspend Robert's Rules of Order,” observed Zasadny. “I make the motion to suspend them for a year.”
Robert's Rules of Order is the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure in the United States. It governs the meetings of a diverse range of organizations including: church groups, county commissions, homeowners associations, nonprofit associations, professional societies, school boards, and trade unions that have adopted it as their parliamentary authority.
The procedures prescribed by Robert's Rules were loosely modeled after those used in the United States House of Representatives, with such adaptations as Robert saw fit for use in ordinary societies.
Generally, Robert's Rules of Order is a guide for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group. The purpose of the book is “to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member's opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion.”
The book is designed for use in ordinary society rather than legislative assemblies, and it is the most commonly adopted parliamentary authority among societies in the United States. It is also recognized as “the most widely used reference for meeting procedure and business rules in the English-speaking world.”
The book states that it is “a codification of the present-day general parliamentary law.”
General parliamentary law refers to the common rules and customs for conducting business in organizations and assemblies. It does not refer to statutory legal requirements nor to common-law precedent derived from court judgments. In other words, the book is about procedures for meetings and not about what is legal (it is not a law book).
As a reference, it is designed to answer, as nearly as possible, any question of parliamentary procedure that may arise. The completeness of the book was made so that organizations would not have to write extensive rules for themselves. In addition, members of different organizations could refer to the same book of rules.
“It's not wise to suspend it for a whole year,” replied Mayor Arnie Carlson.
“We break them so often,” stated Zasadny. “Maybe we could avoid future legal issues by doing so.”
The conversation stems from the special meeting that was scheduled last Monday regarding the selection and wording of an advisory referendum on the Civic Auditorium. The meeting had to be canceled because it had been brought back, after it failed, but not by a member of the prevailing side, thus it was in violation of Robert's Rules.
“There are better options,” claimed Zasadny, though she failed to mention what those options may be. “We don't follow them anyway.”
Zasadny asked the council if they were going to make her read the 816 page Robert's Rules of Order book, if the council hoped to follow them.
“It really would be Arnie's job,” noted Zasadny. “Every meeting and every motion we have is improper. It's not an issue until someone calls us on it.”
The motion to suspend Roberts Rules of Order for the period of one year died for lack of a second.
August 28, 2018
City open to sale of field to school
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
About a month ago, Mark Burandt, the Superintendent of St. Croix Falls School District broached the subject about the school possibly purchasing the athletic field from the City to the school board.
With their approval, he approached the city regarding the purchase of the property and made an appearance at the Plan Commission meeting last week.
The Plan Commission did not have an issues with the sale aside from not including the esker in the sale since it is part of the Ice Age Trail, and that respect is paid to the historical preservation of the property.
“There is currently no appetite for the tennis courts,” observed Mayor Arnie Carlson.
“Can we make that a stipulation?” asked Alderwoman Joy Zasadny.
It was noted that they could. However, if the courts were left in the condition that they currently are in there may be some issue.
The head of the public works department stated that he had been in touch with a “tennis court doctor” and sent him several photos, but hasn't gotten a full report back.
It was stated that the covenants of the deal could include aspects to make sure that historical preservation was addressed.
“How protective are deed restrictions and covenants if we can go back and change them?” asked Zasadny, referring to the council's consideration of eliminating a deed restriction on the St. Croix Valley Golf Course so that the St. Croix Regional Medical Center can build a new campus there.
Zasadny also noted that the parcel that is used across the street for parking during games is prime real estate that she would like to see something more done with.
That matter would have to be considered separately, as the school does not lease it, but they do use it and mow it.
“Is there an urgency in taking it off our hands?” inquired Alderman Brent Waak.
“It would be one less thing for the city to deal with,” noted Carlson.
City Clerk Bonita Leggitt noted that there is a question of liability. Right now, both the city and the school carry liability insurance. The question is whose insurance company would pay first, how much and when.
“The school has been a good tenant, there is no pressing timeline,” observed Council President Chris Chelberg. “We can move forward with the language.”
In a motion made by Zasadny and seconded by Waak, the council would have the school have the property surveyed and pay for it, that the covenants should include historic preservation and would stipulate that the property have the same public access as well as for it to remain an athletic field.
Discussions with the school regarding the tennis courts will continue.
September 27, 2018
Business plan for Civic Auditorium presented
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
A conceptual business plan for the Civic Auditorium was presented to the St. Croix Falls City Council at their meeting Monday night.
Falls Chamber of Commerce President Bill Ties was on hand to present the basics of the 30-plus page plan to the council.
Prior to that, during the public comments portion of the meeting resident Doug Brant spoke.
“I see a lot of Festival Theatre people here,” observed Brant. “I see a lot of you at each city council meeting. You need to ask yourself the impact this is going to have on homeowners, the noise, the music. We didn't move out here for that...I find it repulsive that the city council involved our tax dollars. I think they can expect a heck of a big lawsuit.”
Ties presented the plan to the board introducing it as a “30,000 foot view” with real numbers and real estimations, with no additional money from the city, and notes that they were “pretty conservative” when they were drawing up the plan.
The mission statement is as follows: The vision and mission for the Civic Auditorium is to provide a gathering place for residents and visitors to connect with each other through entertainment, performance, culture, civic engagement, arts learning, and shared experiences that expand their personal lives, contribute to strengthening the social fabric of the community, and catalyze economic development.
There are various models in which the Civic Auditorium would operate. The leading idea is for the establishment of a non-profit to run the facility.
Previously, through an agreement with the Festival Theatre, it was a user-run facility, and that did not work well for the city.
The other two options are a commercially run facility or a government run facility.
The Civic Auditorium would have two revenue streams: earned income (through ticketed events, rental activity, arts education, event support and concessions), and contributed income (grants, donations, sponsorships, in-kind goods and services, and memberships).
In the first year, it is projected that the total revenue from all the aforementioned would be $292,552 the expenditures are expected to be $290,000.
Ties informed the council that any additional revenue would go into a reserve fund and if all goes well an endowment could be established to be assured that the Civic Auditorium would survive well into the future.
“What happens should things go belly up?” inquired Mayor Arnie Carlson.
“You will have a $3.5-$6 million building with no debt, you could sell it easily,” noted Ties.
“It strikes me as crazy that they have the foresight to set up reserves and we (the city) has no reserves,” marveled Council President Chris Chelberg. “I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but we don't have a dime for reserves right now.”
Carlson noted that it had previously been determined to let the Centennial Committee work through the end of December to reach their fundraising goal.
It was also noted that the Economic Development Grant for $500,000 had a March deadline, which has already been extended, is unlikely to be extended for another year.
No formal action was taken by the council on the matter.
October 11, 2018
SCRMC to look at other properties
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Mayor Arnie Carlson announced to the St. Croix Falls City Council on Monday night that the St. Croix Regional Medical Center is no longer seeking to build a medical campus on the site of the St. Croix Valley Golf Course.
“Even though we took no action on the deed restriction (on the golf course) that does not mean that it cannot be brought back upon request,” noted Carlson. “The hospital is looking at other properties now. I told them we would support them in any way that we can. I don't need to re-numerate the impact if they leave.”
“This started out as a rumor for months,” observed Carlson. “And finally boom it was in front of us. I want to make everyone aware of another rumor that has been making the rounds and that is legal action regarding the improper/illegal use of TIF monies. We have asked the village attorney to render a legal opinion on it. Thus far we have gotten nothing in writing regarding it. Just be aware.”
In other business, the council received some unfortunate information at their meeting Monday night regarding PILOT or Payment In Lieu Of Taxes.
PILOT is a way for non-profits within the city to contribute to services they receive that would otherwise be paid for through taxation.
The City has been long looking for ways to increase revenue while cutting costs. At first, reexamining the PILOT properties seemed like a good idea.
The City went so far as to set aside $2,500 for Bowmar Appraisals to reassess some of the tax exempt properties within the city and then renegotiate each agreement.
However, it was discovered that any new or changed PILOT agreement would require the City to lower their levy by that amount, according to a law passed in 2013.
While it wouldn't increase the city's revenue Alderwoman Joy Zasadny pointed out that it would help shift the tax burden slightly off from individuals and businesses by lowering the mill rate.
“The mill rate is the little man, by doing that, we are effectively helping them,” observed Council President Chris Chelberg.
Alderman Brent Waak moved that the money that had been allocated for appraisals be unallocated.
“We should probably scrap it until we get all our ducks in a row,” agreed Chelberg.
Waak, Chelberg and Alderman Kirk Anderson voted to unallocate the money while Zasadny voted to keep the monies to go for reassessments.
November 1, 2018
SCF Schools closed Thursday due to threat
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Parents and students of the St. Croix Falls School District got an unfortunate surprise on Thursday when they were informed that the campus was closed. Parents received a “robo call” from Superintendent Mark Burandt informing them that the campus was closing for the day due to the threat of gun violence.
All of the students were accounted for and were taken either back home or to a secondary location provided/approved of by their parents.
The St. Croix Falls Police Department was made aware of the threat from a student and their parent and Chief Erin Murphy immediately made contact with Burandt. They became aware of the threat at 7:15 a.m.
“The words spoken were by a current student,” noted Burandt. “We worked with the police department identifying the threat and securing the campus,” observed Burandt. “The campus was never truly compromised.”
In a joint press release, the St. Croix Falls Police Department and the school district stated: “...While the individual who allegedly made the threat was taken into police custody, there were some other details that we felt needed to be clarified.
“To that end and in an abundance of caution, we decided it was best to not have our children in school today (Thursday). As always the district takes student safety very seriously. We believe that this was an isolated issue. At this time, we have no reason to believe their will be any concerns going forward with school on Friday.”
Burandt noted that this is the first such threat since he started working for the district.
“I really wish that things like this didn't happen,” said Burandt. “There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think about student safety. There is a lot of things we do regarding student safety that people may never see. We have a crisis plan and we implemented it. Then we had a meeting to discuss how we can do things better. I believe we took appropriate steps regarding our students' safety.”
November 2, 2018
Butler vs. bullying at SCF Schools
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Monday night was cold and rainy as students and their parents made their way to the St. Croix Falls High School seeking inspiration and knowledge regarding the issue of bullying.
LeRoy Butler played his entire career (1990-2001) with the Green Bay Packers as a strong safety. He was selected by the Packers in the second round 1990 draft. He played 181 regular season games, 14 post season games, earned a ring from Super Bowl XXXI, was selected all pro four times, and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. He was named to the NFL (National Football League) 1990s All-Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1990.
The question is, what was this celebrity doing in this small Midwestern town?
The answer is fighting against bullying thanks to his Butler vs. Bullying program.
Within its first year, the campaign reached more than 20 schools and over 6,000 students. In the second year, they strove to reach an additional 10,000 students.
In Butler vs. Bullying, LeRoy is taking a grassroots approach to bring professionals, teachers, and parents and families together to discuss, in an open microphone format, the social problems that derive from bullying.
Over the past year, Butler has traveled throughout Wisconsin to sit down with people who are the recipients of bullying tactics, and those who have bullied.
The format that Butler uses brings awareness to the impacts that bullying can have. It is an open forum to discuss the problems at hand.
“This approach allows the kids to be leaders and not followers,” observed Butler. “This problem cannot be ignored any longer and it is our goal to provide a place for these kids to feel free to open up about the problem and be a leader in helping us solve the issue.”
Butler can no doubt draw on his difficult childhood. Butler's problems went beyond poverty and crime. He was born so pigeon-toed that the doctors had to break bones in both his feet when he was only eight months old to correct the problem.
Walking was a major challenge for Butler, who spent much of his early youth in a wheelchair. Between the ages of six and eight, he had to wear leg braces.
Much of his early childhood was spent staring out the window and watching the neighborhood kids play kickball, something at the time he never would have been able to imagine doing.
At the time, doctors predicted that he would be lucky if he was ever able to walk normally.
As fate would have it, when he was eight years old Butler discovered that he no longer needed leg braces.
On that amazing day, he was accidentally knocked out of his wheelchair and his leg braces went flying. Picking himself up, he discovered that he could not only walk normally, but he could run pretty well too, faster than most of the kids in his neighborhood.
Having overcome the trials of a challenging childhood and proven himself on the athletic field, Butler has earned the respect of his peers and youth, especially die-hard Packers fans are inclined to listen to what he has to say, and perhaps are somewhat braver when asked to come forward in regards to being bullied. And perhaps, talks like this will help those who bully think more thoroughly about the consequences of their actions.
November 8, 2018
Alderwoman accused of behaving egregiously
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
Fireworks started at the end of what was already a long and trying meeting at the St. Croix Falls City Council Monday night. The last item on the agenda brought forth a whole new “energy” for lack of a better word.
The last item on the agenda was an item regarding cellphone use by council members during meetings and the use of social media. It was placed on the agenda by Alderwoman Joy Zasadny.
“I asked that this be placed on our agenda this evening,” stated Zasadny. “I also gave our legal counsel a heads up that this would be coming.
“Two meetings ago there was a message through a cellphone, you were taking public comments and they had been closed. It said that I couldn't abstain unless there was a conflict of interest, which was wrong.
“I was at a Public Works meeting and there was someone making a presentation and three out of four people were on their cellphones,” observed Zasadny. “I was appalled by their behavior.
“I also know Kirk (Alderman Anderson) posts and is active on social media,” said Zasadny. “And I have gotten questions from some of those posts.”
The City's legal counsel Anders Hellquist was on hand to answer any questions that the council may have.
“There are generally some things you ask yourself,” began Hellquist. “First, what is the purpose of this policy, is it enforceable, are people held accountable and why.”
Hellquist went on to note that many cities are staying away from policies regarding the use of social media because it could infringe on first amendment rights.
“When you think about it we have been doing the same thing for centuries,” noted Hellquist. “After the meeting you may go down to the bar or tavern to discuss it. There might be letters to the editor, or mass e-mails...you don't want to get to the point where you are over regulating speech. It would be a messy policy to write and enforce.”
Zasadny produced a stack of papers from her pile and held it up, “Actually, the Wisconsin League of Municipalities has a draft of one...”
Alderman Brent Waak, who is often quite reserved during meetings proved to have had enough of Zasadny's antics and lambasted her for her latest overreach.
“I disagree,” declared Waak. “I think that this is an egregious overstep. I answer to the people that elected me, not to you. I find it an offensive, egregious overstep of the bounds of an alderman.”
Alderman Kirk Anderson pointed out that his cellphone does not only serve as his phone, but as a portable computer.
“Everything for the meetings I have is on here, everything I do is on here,” said Anderson. “As far as social media posts go, my page is what helped get me elected and it is one of the ways how I've been able to communicate with my constituents.”
“I would like to hear from legal counsel regarding Facebook posts,” stated Zasadny. “Shouldn't we have a disclaimer. Shouldn't these posts be a matter of public record and archived appropriately?”
“Then that is something brand new that I have never heard of,” stated Hellquist. “Some kind of indemnity clause or something.”
Waak spoke the most clearly against such a move stating that it was not the job of any alderman or alderwoman to impinge on the rights granted by the first amendment.
December 6, 2018