Not nice in Minnesota

The antithesis of Minnesota Nice

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, the fact that a member of the Lake Elmo city council is NOT NICE is front page news today in the Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Pi Press reports that this council member has a lot to say and goes to the trouble of analyzing three city council meetings. The results of their work may be seen in the chart below.

The article jumps inside and goes on for quite a ways. This guy has created a real sensation in Lake Elmo. But it’s not as though he just joined the council. He’s on his third term. So he must be doing something that his constituents like. No doubt he’s having a tough time getting things done with the many, many four to one votes. Democracy is built upon compromise. One might say it is necessary for the minority to compromise with the majority. Consider that this situation may call for the opposite. In any event, the whole thing is very funny. In New York, Chicago, Boston or, say, Philadelphia, we might not be able to hear what this guy has to say above the din.

Withering barrage

The look on this lady’s face reveals it all. Minnesota Nice. Not!

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3 comments

  1. Sometimes loud, often rude – but always talking
    On Lake Elmo council, 1 member dominates discussions

    BY BOB SHAW
    Pioneer Press
    Article Last Updated: 01/13/2008 12:41:51 AM CST

    Lake Elmo City Council Member Steve DeLapp calls himself a “lone wolf.” He calls his colleagues on the council other names.
    During a typical shouting match at a Lake Elmo City Council meeting, three people clamored to be heard. The mayor banged his gavel.

    But the council member at the end of the table kept on talking. “I am allowed to speak!” cried Steve DeLapp.

    Indeed he is.

    A Pioneer Press analysis of City Council meetings shows DeLapp talks more than everyone else on the council combined, including the mayor. And it’s not just the quantity of DeLapp’s talking that is drawing attention – it’s also the tone. DeLapp scolds his colleagues, insults them and swears at them.

    The open warfare to rein in DeLapp escalated to the point that the council passed an ordinance to make him behave – complete with veiled threats to have him forcibly removed from meetings.

    The rule passed after DeLapp called Mayor Dean Johnston a “goddamned bastard” at the Oct. 16 meeting.

    DeLapp, 63, says he is the only council member who puts the interests of Lake Elmo citizens first, and he calls the others liars, manipulators or puppets of the mayor.

    “I am a lone wolf,” DeLapp said earlier this month. “I know I talk too much. I hate it. I wish I could be part of a group of people who learned critical thinking in college.

    “Half of what I have to say should be said by other people, but they won’t say it,” he said. “I would rather not do it. It puts a hell of a burden on me.

    “Their job is to beat down everything I say,” DeLapp said.

    POINTLESS TO RESPOND

    Other council members laughed
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    – wearily – at the idea that someone who talks more than all of them combined would claim to be censored.

    “These accusations are so outrageous, it is pointless to respond,” said Johnston, 63. “He can make things up faster than you can respond.”

    “I consider his behavior to be that of a 2-year-old in need of a timeout,” said Council Member Elizabeth Johnson, 50.

    DeLapp is crippling recruiting efforts, the mayor said.

    Johnston recently contacted 30 people, asking them to be involved in city government. He said most of them turned him down for the same reason: “I am not going to put myself in the hostile environment that DeLapp creates.”

    The Pioneer Press examined videotapes from the meetings of Oct. 16, Nov. 5 and Nov. 20. In those meetings, DeLapp spoke for one hour and 33 minutes. Other council members were Johnston, 41 minutes; Anne Smith, 16; Elizabeth Johnson, 15; and Nicole Park, 7.

    DeLapp’s verbosity is all the more remarkable because the mayor’s time is inflated by routine announcements, such as the call for the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Greg Keel, of Lake Elmo, was drawn into the council chambers in the fall by a letter in a local newspaper claiming the council was stifling DeLapp.

    “It was exactly the opposite,” said Keel, after witnessing four meetings. “It was all Steve, all night.”

    At one meeting, he even timed the amount various members spoke. His results were identical to the Pioneer Press analysis – DeLapp spoke more than all others combined.

    Keel supports what he sees as DeLapp’s goal of minimizing growth in Lake Elmo.

    “But to literally take more time than everyone else is being combative and resistant to helping the council as a group,” Keel said.

    3-MINUTE RULE

    The council began to take courtesy more seriously last winter, when it adopted a rule limiting statements to three minutes. If no one else wants to talk, then the same person – usually DeLapp – gets another three minutes, and so on. There is no limit to the number of three-minute segments a person could have.

    But in October, Johnston said, DeLapp’s behavior was not improving.

    After consulting the city attorney, the council adopted an ordinance to conduct meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Order, which included a passage about discipline.

    At one meeting, Johnston pointedly asked the attorney whether police could be made available to eject disruptive council members.

    On Oct. 16, DeLapp called Johnston the obscenity, muttering into a microphone.

    He was asked this month whether he owed the mayor an apology.

    “Apology? That was a compliment,” said DeLapp. “He was sitting there lying to the public. … At the time, I was correct about calling him what I did.”

    Neither the mayor nor anyone else on the council agreed that Johnston distorted the truth in any way. They called it another rude stunt by DeLapp.

    GENEROUS, GIVING

    DeLapp is an architect for 3M Corp. He serves on several other boards, with no known complaints about rudeness or excessive talking. He has been elected to the Lake Elmo City Council four times, and previous mayors have few complaints about him.

    Sue Dunn, who was Lake Elmo’s mayor in the 1980s, said: “He is the only one (on the present City Council) who knows anything. Steve is a generous, giving individual.

    “He just has to come across a little more appropriately to people he works with,” she added.

    Dunn said the council does not listen to what DeLapp is saying.

    “Their eyes glaze over,” she said. “But Steve can sleep at night knowing what he did was right.”

    Former Mayor Lee Hunt, an old friend of DeLapp’s, also worked with him on the council.

    “I would hate to see a council which didn’t have someone to challenge the status quo,” Hunt said.

    “I have never known anyone to be more open, honest and forthright. Steve is a very passionate person,” said Hunt, “although sometimes he loses a bit of control.”

    Others say enough is enough.

    DeLapp insults other council members in meetings and elsewhere. He mocks council members, calling them “self-centered,” “clueless” and “fawning.”

    Council members say DeLapp is an intelligent public servant but his behavior eclipses his contributions.

    “When Steve speaks with a rational thought, he can provide wonderful input,” Council Member Johnson said. “When he starts speaking with the blame game and labeling people, then things become dysfunctional.”

    “He is really nice before meetings, and it really shocks me how much he changes in council meetings,” said Park, 35, who is serving her first term.

    “We try to be adults and give him time to talk,” she said. “It’s all fine until he makes statements about all of us, and how none of us cares – like he is the only one who cares.”

    OLD VILLAGE AN ISSUE

    Council Member Smith, 44, takes offense at DeLapp’s constant charges that the city stifles debate.

    “That is completely false,” she said.

    But, she said, council members are getting tired of arguments about the decision made in April to proceed with expansion and renovation of the Old Village, the city’s historic downtown area.

    That plan – approved by all council members, including DeLapp – was the city’s response to a decision by the state Supreme Court forcing the city to plan for growth. Overall, the city has hosted about 20 meetings seeking public input about the plan.

    “Now, a small group comes in with one viewpoint, and repeats it over and over,” Smith said. “There are 7,950 other people out there. Many are very, very happy with the new direction.”

    DeLapp now leads the charge to curtail the Old Village plan. He has said he changed his mind after discovering the scope of the plan and the need for sewer connections to the area.

    The turnaround strikes some council members as political posturing. When combined with DeLapp’s accusations that they don’t care, they say, resentment naturally builds.

    “I get offended by Steve saying that. We all put in time, energy, heart and soul into this job, including Steve,” Smith said.

    “When he keeps interrupting, you don’t know how to handle it,” Smith said. “I have a well-thought-out thought, and he interrupts, and it’s gone. It’s very disturbing.”

    DeLapp’s supporters derisively use the term “Dean’s Ladies” to refer to the three women on the council – implying they do anything the mayor asks.

    “That is such an insult,” snapped Johnson. “I am not a hooker. I am not a prostitute. I am an independent thinker.”

    “That is so sexist and the height of disrespect,” Smith said. “We have three bright, sensitive, excellent women on the council, making their own decisions.”

    INTERRUPTIONS CONSTANT

    Details of the three meetings give glimpses of what the mayor and council members find objectionable.

    In the meetings, the mayor used the gavel about 15 times, when DeLapp interrupted or went over his time limits for speaking.

    Much of the council’s time was spent trying to get DeLapp to stop talking. Comments ranged from “Can you let him finish?” to “Please stop talking” and “Steve, that’s enough.” When those failed: “Stop it!” and “Hush up!”

    In one case, after failing to win support for his position concerning lawn signs, DeLapp told the council, “What you are saying is, you don’t care what the quality of life is.”

    He made a motion, and no one seconded it.

    “Well, that says it all. We don’t care about residents,” DeLapp said. The result was one of many 4-1 votes, with DeLapp the lone dissenter.

    At another meeting, DeLapp explained the cause of his anger.

    “I get frustrated because nobody listens,” he said. “I’m made to look like a bad guy … with nothing but 4-to-1 votes all the time.”

    Council members suggested his own behavior was to blame.

    “It is your own choice in life,” Johnson said. “We are all accountable for our actions.”

    Another time, DeLapp said council members were too passive: “The fact that others are not asking these questions and the fact that I am asking them should not be held against me.

    “It’s not me,” said DeLapp. “The public wants to know what we are doing. It’s not me.”

    “You are repeating, Steve,” Johnston said.

    “Well, I don’t think anyone heard. Did anyone hear what I said? If so, could they repeat it?” DeLapp said.

    DeLapp charged council members with not listening to public objections to the Old Village plan. When Johnston objected, DeLapp countered: “Don’t tell me what I heard and saw. Everything (the public) said was ignored.”

    Another time, DeLapp talked straight through two bouts of gavel-rapping. He stood up, put his hands over his ears and said sarcastically: “Hi, residents. This is how we listen to you.”

    DeLapp interrupted Johnston several times. “Stop it!” replied Johnston. “Respect the ground rules!”

    In other cities, the approval of the minutes of past meetings is routine. But in two Lake Elmo meetings, DeLapp questioned how the minutes were kept, in one case launching a 10-minute debate.

    He questioned the term “Christmas lights” in a city document. He objected to the use of color photos in a trail plan for the city. He questioned using the 10th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order for managing meetings. The reason? There might be an 11th edition in the future.

    At one point, the mayor put his head in his hands.

    “Who rules this city?” said DeLapp. “The loudmouths.”

    Bob Shaw can be reached at bshaw@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5433.

  2. Huh, now I kind of want to watch some of the old Sesame Street dvds ^_^ My mom actually wroekd at the Smithsonian when it was Sesame Street’s 10th anversary, so she used to tell us as kids how she actually got to hold Kermit and other muppets. I really like alot of PBS’s kids shows. I’ve been a nanny for years, and those are usually the best ones to sit and watch with kids. Those and Dragon Tales – becuase Dragon Tales is like watching fantasy. Kind of.

  3. I would prefer the thumbs-up or thumbs-downs. That may give some of the rest of us a chance to be involved in a ratings feature. I have noticed that my subscribers will thumbs-down a poor comment and thumbs-up a comment or suggestion they like. They seem to miss the star ratings. I see the thumbs feature as a more efficient way of communicating. According to the views and comments on my profile, I know they like my videos. If you look at the star ratings, I barely get any ratings. Thumbs-up from me for the thumbs-up feature.

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