The Isanti City Council devoted about half its April 3 meeting to discussion of the place that citizen comments will have in future council meetings once meetings are video-recorded. No specific timeline has been announced as to when council meetings would start to be video-recorded.
Currently, citizen input is an item on the agenda and takes place during council meetings.
The council adopted a modified resolution which originally stated that citizen input would take place before the meeting and not be recorded. After discussion, the resolution was modified to state that citizen input would take place before the regular council meeting and be audio-recorded only.
Opening the discussion regarding the resolution, Isanti Mayor George Wimmer stated there were two reasons for citizen input to not be video-recorded and taken off the regular agenda. One of those reasons were disruptions that may take place which Wimmer said happens in a number of communities. The other reason was that some people don’t want to be video-recorded when addressing the council.
It was noted this discussion also took place several years ago when the topic of video-recorded meetings was previously being discussed. Isanti City Administrator Don Lorsung clarified, stating that during those discussions it was found that some people don’t want to be video-recorded when addressing the council, and that some people will make inflammatory comments or tell untruths.
“Once they are caught on video, they are there,” Lorsung said.
Stating that he doesn’t disagree with the reasons for not recording citizen input, Council Member Steve Lundeen added that he thinks sometimes citizens feel they are not being heard or getting their fair shake, even though they are coming to speak before the council. However, he explained, “Citizen input is not something we can act on. We cannot elaborate on any citizen input that has been given to us. It’s just taken under advisement.”
Lundeen went on to say he wanted citizen input recorded for the sake of transparency.
City Council Member Ross Lorinser agreed with Lundeen regarding citizen input, noting the whole intent of citizen input is to allow a citizen to come and voice a concern, and for the council to send it to committee.
“It’s very informal,” Lorinser said. “It’s very brief, and it’s used very rarely. We have people coming up every so often for something that they don’t know where to turn, so they come to us and we direct it to a committee. That’s what it’s for; it’s not necessarily for creating a TV moment. So if it’s out before the meeting, I think that would just solidify that’s what it’s for. It’s not for someone to come and grandstand. It’s not for people to state their political agenda.”
Noting that he would like citizens’ input recorded, Council Member Paul Bergley said he thought the resolution could be further modified to include people who may not be citizens but are under jurisdiction of the city. An example he gave was if someone was turned down for a building permit by the city, but was not a resident of the city.
Wimmer noted that people turned down for a building permit who were not Isanti residents could ask a council member to put it on the agenda, and that there was also an appeals process to bring an issue like that before the council.
“So if you open that up, then you open it up to people you think it might be helping and to a lot of others, as well,” Wimmer said, adding that the council could modify the resolution as they saw fit. However, he also cautioned the council, stating, “It is a Pandora’s box of allowing a lot of stuff to happen that isn’t any business of the city to be involved with.”
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• Adopted a resolution appointing City Council Member Dan Collison to the BMX board. The position was formerly held by Wimmer, but another meeting he must attend conflicts with BMX board meetings.
• Adopted resolutions granting special permits for two new businesses in Isanti. The first was a conditional use permit to Jill Hoffman, doing business as Granny May’s, to operate a restaurant at 2 Enterprise Avenue NE, Suite D4. The second was an interim use permit for Jodi DeTomaso to operate a dog grooming business out of her home at 200 9th Avenue SE.
• Approved a motion eliminating the Chamber of Commerce liaison position.
• Adopted a resolution authorizing a request from SAC Wireless to amend a conditional use permit to allow the collocation of antennas on an existing communications tower.
• Adopted a resolution authorizing engineering services for the 2018 permit maintenance project.