West St. Paul city council meetings continue to be full of drama and public outcry. Last night’s June 11, 2018 meeting (you can watch online) was the third meeting since the infamous April 23 meeting when charges of sexism were levied against four male council members—and it was the third meeting in a row that featured a packed house and multiple citizens addressing the council.
It’s so encouraging to see people standing up and speaking out. As Councilperson Dave Napier said, “It’s your city.”
- Appointed, Finally: Samantha Green, originally appointed and rejected for a seat on the Planning Commission, was reappointed to the Planning Commission and confirmed with a vote of 5-0, with Councilperson John Bellows abstaining.
- Appointed, Round 2: Three people were appointed to open positions on the Environmental Committee: Olivia Newfield, Paula Saatzer, and Tara Wright.
- Filled: I believe those four appointments have now filled all open seats on city committees. It’s good to see the city council finally responding to the uproar over this and approving volunteer candidates. (Technically, the city council didn’t fill the four open seats on the Charter Commission. That commission itself approved their own appointments, which that commission alone can do. It’s a weird situation, and if you want to get really technical, according to state law, a judge fills those seats.)
- Apologized: Councilperson Bob Pace apologized to Mayor Jenny Halverson for any time he had ever disrespected her. Councilperson Ed Iago apologized to Mayor Halverson if referring to her as ‘lady’ was offensive. (It’s worth noting that in previous meetings Councilperson Anthony Fernandez apologized to Samantha Green for making her appointment personal, and Councilperson John Bellows apologized to Jay DeLaRosby for telling him to shut up during a meeting.)
- Attacked: Rather than apologize, Councilperson Bellows attacked Mayor Halverson and blamed her for casting a shadow over the city. He tried to re-argue the original April 23 appointment of Green, accusing Halverson of being hypocritical and pointing to a 2015 appointment vote. We’ve already hashed this one out, the case where Bellows argued for the male mayor’s prerogative, and then Councilperson Halverson eventually agreed. Bellows also questioned Halverson’s claims of sexual harassment, challenging her to file formal complaints and institute a third-party investigation. Halverson responded by pointing out that no woman makes up stories of harassment to get attention. It’s embarrassing. She concluded, “Just believe her.”
- Argued: Bellows also tried to re-argue the forced resignation of former city manager Matt Fulton by saying we’re better off and no one here would dispute that. Councilperson Vitelli immediately raised his hand to dispute it, and Bellows dismissed him by saying they disagree one everything—then Mayor Halverson and Councilperson Dave Napier raised their hands to dispute Bellow’s claim. Both Napier and Vitelli later reiterated their thanks and praise to current city manager Ryan Schroeder, noting that he is doing a great job, but that doesn’t mean Fulton wasn’t doing a good job either.
- Screwed: Multiple citizens spoke about the rash of tires punctured with screws that appears to be targeting Mayor Halverson and people who have spoken in her defense. There have been at least six incidents reported so far, all from people who have spoken at recent meetings about the sexism issue.
- Untrustworthy: I spoke during the citizen comments, pointing to the inconsistencies in the comments of Councilperson Anthony Fernandez. How can we simply disagree on these issues when it’s not mere disagreement, we’re being misled? Fernandez didn’t respond.
- Admitted: Saving the worst for last, Green described an encounter with former mayor and current ward 3 candidate David Meisinger where he basically admitted to leaving the tissues and feminine products at the door of Green and Mayor Halverson. We’ll explore this in more detail in the future, but his ongoing harassment should disqualify him from ever holding public office again.
Three council seats and the mayor are up for election in 2018, so it’s important to be paying attention. Mayor Halverson as well as Councilpersons Iago and Bellows are not running again, though Councilpersons Fernandez and Napier are both vying for mayor. Councilperson Vitelli is running unopposed, and relative newcomers (with one harassing exception) are running for seats in wards two and three. In another post I’ve explored where the 2018 candidates stand on this sexism controversy.