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Chapman: New era begins for City Council

By Staff | Jul 11, 2014

Fireworks continued after the 4th of July weekend at a place you might not expect, if you haven’t been following local politics.

The collective face of the Rugby City Council went blank as Ward 4 newcomer Craig Zachmeier basically picked apart the entire structure Monday. The grand finale of the 7th of July show came when Zachmeier, the new chairman of the Ordinance Committee, got to the fifth of five ordinances he scrutinized in the new council’s first regular meeting.

Zachmeier left the council and mayor no choice, but to accept – for the remainder of 2014 – about one-third of the monthly salary they’ve been collecting.

Like many of the ordinances Zachmeier pointed out – and there likely are more to follow – this one was outdated and proved that councils since the late 1990s failed to follow their own city ordinances.

Zachmeier is an agent with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, making him an employee of the state’s attorney general. He knows the law and doesn’t mind studying it.

The council failed to take the appropriate steps to increase salaries and they cannot revert to what they’ve been making until Jan. 1, 2015. In the meantime, the council has to follow the current city council ordinance and the salary schedule last approved legally. Instead of $600 per month, the mayor will make $250 the rest of the year. Instead of $300 per month, the council will make $100.

A good faith clause protects the council from this silly oversight, yet probably innocent mistake. What’s concerning is taxpayers, technically, lost thousands of money for years because of laziness or lack of willingness to learn how to properly conduct public business.

It’s not the end of the world and you don’t have to donate canned goods to the mayor (joke courtesy a friend). Hopefully the snafu serves as motivation for council members to do a little more homework and ensure money is legally going where it should be. Zachmeier is probably cuckoo enough to vet the entire 370-something pages of ordinances, but it wouldn’t hurt to have an overall well-informed council handling our public money.

How not to address

the council

No. 8 on the agenda at this week’s council meeting was set for Rob Bollinger, a citizen concerned about the city’s summer baseball program.

Bollinger failed to show for the second time he has been put on the council agenda, according to city record. His appearance may have helped offset the diatribe he wrote to the Rugby City Park and Recreation Board, which doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, the council was willing to hear his concerns – outlined in the lengthy, angrily crafted letter.

Bollinger may bring up valid points about the poor conditions of the baseball diamonds and the program not being able to compete as well as a town of this size should. (Ask the city, if you’d like a copy of his letter.)

But his arguments are hard to stomach because of the way he approaches the people, whom he doesn’t correctly address. (The baseball program falls under the city’s recreation division, which is not connected to Rugby Park Board.)

He describes “poor quality coaches who lack the maturity and experience to teach them not only about baseball, but about life.”

Bollinger fails to mention if he even spoke with coaches to see if they feel prepared or well-supported. He mentions “coaches have been allowed to humiliate players” and the bullying of players from their peers. That undoubtedly happens everywhere and needs to be addressed, yet the citizen chastises members of the Rugby City Park and Recreation Board for having “duplicitous minds” and for pretending “to be a credible and wise entity ‘serving’ the people.” Our human egos are our biggest enemies, yet they exist. You can’t expect officials to listen if you approach them in such a manner.

He continues: “My intent is simply not to chastise you, but to provoke you to stand up and do the right thing. To be men and not cowards and to step up and help the kids of this community.”

Just about everyone hopes the right things are done and the kids are helped, but the leaders are ridiculed again and the letter ends with a chastising use of a bible verse – Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth: Galatians 4:16.

People have reason to question leadership in this community, but consult an English teacher, public relations professional, communications specialist, etc., before crippling just concerns with inflammatory language.

Always have someone you’re not too close with read such a letter. They are already approaching the subject with a cooler head. Avoid first person, especially if you’re concerned about the welfare of the children or another group. The argument is for them, not you. Don’t label the people you are addressing because that will almost automatically put them on the defensive and you’ve created a hostile argument instead of a civil discussion.

Don’t send your initial thoughts.

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