Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede has decided to suspend a City Council tradition for the rest of the year.

The so-called dinner meetings were the idea of former Mayor Hazama and were started to offer the council an informal setting to talk about issues and resolve differences. They are paid for by the mayor's contingency fund.

The meetings have been normally held the first Monday of the month at various restaurants and other sites in the city.

Brede says he decided not to schedule any more this year after learning some council members decided to boycott the dinners. But they may be scheduled next year. Brede plans to ask the city council to discuss and vote on the issue in January. That’s when at least one new council member will be sworn in.

Brede says - “ It is virtually the only opportunity for us to get to know each other on a personal basis.  I believe the lack of this opportunity further leads to becoming a dysfunctional body.”

Some council members and citizens have criticized the meetings because they don’t allow for public input and are sometimes held in small venues.

 

Here is the mayor's memo to the council:

I am not pleased to do so but under the current “atmosphere” I am suspending the monthly City Council Dinner meetings for November and December.  I am deeply disappointed that some council members are publicly boycotting a valuable opportunity to discuss more fully council matters with city staff and each other in a setting that is more comfortable. 

I am suggesting that in January, when the new Council is seated we vote on the matter of future Council Dinner meetings.  Council Dinner meetings have been a tradition for many decades.  It is virtually the only opportunity for us to get to know each other on a personal basis.  I believe the lack of this opportunity further leads to becoming a dysfunctional body. 

Council Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings certainly allow the public to observe the decision making process of the council but generally do not allow public input.  Dinner meetings are open to the public attendance and we can do a better job in making the location and size of seating area acceptable. 

I understand that we are not able to make formal decisions on matters which is the same as the COW.  Nothing is “secret”.  “Transparency”, an overused word in my opinion, is not avoided.  In fact it may be greater in hearing thoughts of staff and council members prior to the decision that may come later in the formal Council Meeting. 

I have always viewed the Council Dinner meetings as more than an opportunity for greater collegiality but as a responsibility of each council member to gain greater understanding of individual and potential controversial matters. 

The dinner meetings do not violate open meeting rules and to “boycott” borders on “pulling a “Kapernick”.  I look forward to addressing this matter in 2017.

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