by Dennis Dalman
The Sartell City Council, on a 3-1 vote, decided to sign on to a collective annual list of area cities’ wishes and needs to be presented to state legislators.
Sartell Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll was not present at the Nov. 13 council meeting. Voting to approve the list were acting mayor Pat Lynch and council members Mike Chisum, Ryan Fitzthum and David Peterson.
The list is a joint resolution involving the cities of Sartell, St. Joseph, St. Cloud, Waite Park and St. Augusta. The other five cities have signed on to the priorities list.
Several times earlier this year, the Sartell City Council had pondered whether or not to sign on to the list. It is, they mostly agreed, of dubious value for a number of reasons: the list is too long, its items are often too vague, many items do not pertain to Sartell and legislators are generally not swayed by such lists – especially if there are too many so-called priorities on it.
At an earlier fall Area All-Cities meeting, some participants criticized the Sartell City Council for taking issue with the priorities list, which the council had done at a spring meeting. Attending the All-Cities meeting were Sartell council members Pat Lynch and David Peterson, along with Sartell City Administrator/Financial Director Mary Degiovanni.
At the spring meeting, Sartell council members decided the list is too long, at times too vague and that it would be more effective – have more legislative clout – if only five or six priority items were on the list, especially of a regional nature that would involve and impact all six cities.
At the All-Cities meeting, some participants from other cities rapped Sartell, saying in a not-very-friendly manner that if Sartell takes issue with the priorities list, it should make up its own list and figure it out for itself.
At a Sept. 25 meeting, both Peterson and Lynch noted the rather hostile attitudes toward the Sartell City Council by three or four people at the All-Cities meeting. They seemed to consider Sartell a hold-out about the list rather than joining other cities in solidarity.
A couple Sartell members wondered aloud if it’s even worth questioning the priorities list because legislators don’t seem to consult the lists anyway, and – besides – shouldn’t the cities just let the League of Minnesota Cities present priorities and lobby for them at the state legislature?
City administrator/financial director Degiovanni said although some of the priorities or policy statements on the list might not seem very important, she added the administrators of other cities actually have some good, strong rationales for putting them on the list.
When the subject came up again, this time at the Nov. 13 meeting, Lynch noted right away he would not vote in favor of it because at least two of the items he disagrees with.
While agreeing that extension of Interstate-94 is truly a regional benefit to the area, Lynch questioned an item about photo enforcement at traffic lights with a camera aimed at vehicles and their license plates to record traffic violations such as motorists speeding through red lights. Lynch said such a method raises constitutional questions and smacks of a “police state” mentality. Lynch then made a motion for the council to request it be removed from the list. The council approved the motion on a 3-1 vote, with Peterson dissenting.
Another item Lynch took issue with is a request to have the Northstar Commuter Rail extended to St. Cloud from its northern terminal, currently Big Lake. Lynch said he has heard many people in this area don’t like that proposal because it may cause jobs here to go to the Twin Cities, with the rail line “shipping” workers to jobs down there. Lynch made a motion to remove that item. The motion then died for lack of a second.
Council member Mike Chisum said he is in favor of an item requiring stricter licensing of motels and hotels and about relocation parameters for mobile-home parks. Such items could definitely apply to Sartell, Chisum noted.
Finally, when it came time to vote for or against the collective list, the vote was 3-1, with Lynch voting no.
The list contains about 30 policy proposals, funding proposals and state-bond applications. The one Sartell-specific item on the list is a request to appropriate funds to support the completion of the West Metro Corridor transportation project, of which 50th Avenue S. in Sartell is a part.
Other items of regional nature do affect, more or less, the City of Sartell, such as cities being allowed to publish legal notices in other forms of media, including or not including newspapers; establishment of a St. Cloud-based human-rights office; a tax-exempt credit program; a request for more Local Government Aid; levy limits; relief from state mandates; and more.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.