Residents Go After Halverson on Communication Style
Left, Stevens Point Council Members listen to area residents speak Monday night. (City-Times photo)
“Are you listening to me?” – Mildred Neville to Mayor Halverson
By Brandi Maksuki
Stevens Point Council Members will have to wait another month to discuss perceived communication problems between the Council and the mayor’s office.
An agenda item included in Monday’s Common Council meeting arranged specific time for alderpersons to sound off on the mayor’s communication style- something many have complained is curt and impatient, saying they aren’t given enough time to consider some issues prior to being asked to vote. But that agenda item was delayed at Council request due to the length of Monday’s meeting.
But that didn’t stop area residents from making their own remarks on the topic during a period of time set aside for members of the public to speak on “non- agenda” items.
Stevens Point resident Mildred Neville said the mayor has a habit of being rude when some residents address the City Council.
“At the Plan Commission meeting, Mr. Halverson, you asked Reid Rochealou to leave the meeting at one point. As he was leaving- are you listening to me?” Neville asked, looking at the mayor.
“Yes, I am, please continue,” Halverson replied from the front of the room.
“As (Rochealou) was leaving, you made comments that were baiting, I would think,” Neville continued. “When I speak at a meeting, or any other resident speaks, our comments reflect on us personally. When you speak, as our mayor, your comments reflect on you as a person and as our mayor and on our city. I would like to ask in the future you remember that, and you conduct yourself in a way that reflects positively on the City of Stevens Point and contributes to a positive atmosphere where we conduct business.”
“It does seem to rude to me that I’m speaking to you directly and you never look up from the page, or whatever you’re doing,” Neville added.
Neville referred to a City Plan Commission meeting held earlier in January when, Whiting resident and Stevens Point landlord Reid Rochealou was asked to leave the building or face arrest following his interrupting the meeting on more than one occasion. Rochealou began to leave the room, but not before Halverson warned he had “30 seconds to leave the building or you’ll be arrested” and then began to time Rochealou’s retreat from the room.
“Move slower, Reid, I’m begging you,” Halverson said sarcastically at that meeting. Rochealou did in turn move obviously slower, but eventually left the building and was not arrested.
Rochealou has a history of interrupting city and school board meetings, and has been asked to leave both on several occasions over the past few years. He continues to attend meetings, and had plenty to say on the current state of communication between the Council and the mayor’s office.
“People that have often attended the meetings should be aware the mayor had more than a fair advantage at the Plan Commission to advance his position on the Life Skills Center. The mayor did most of the talking and made the motions,” he said. “According to Robert’s Rules of Order, the mayor’s not supposed to have a position. There are rules, recommended guidelines for public hearings, and it’s important to follow basic rules because this needs to be held up in a court.”
Rochealou also said the local print media isn’t actually portraying the communication problems between the mayor and City Council Members, which means the public isn’t aware of the problem.
“The mayor has it (the agenda) set up where immediately after deliberations, he has you people (the Council) voting. What message does it send to the public- are you even considering their input?” Rochealou asked. “I would urge you not to allow the mayor to involve himself anymore. It’s up to you people to hear what the public has to stay, and to encourage you to not vote immediately. You can postpone these matters to research what the public has brought up to you.”
Stevens Point resident Mary Ann Laszewski also had concerns, saying some issues relating to finance aren’t open to public or Council scrutiny during city meetings.
“Why, except for Finance Committee, when you approve the actions of Plan Commission and the other committees, you (the Council) and public are barred from discussing the costs of what will be approved?” Laszewski asked. “This considering of finances by the Plan Commission is addressed by the state statute under Miscellaneous Powers of the Plan Commission, which states ‘the Plan Commission may recommend to the mayor or Council programs for public improvement and the financing thereof’. As our meetings are now, we are at risk of being off-topic any time as we mention finances.”
Laszewski also said the manner in which members of the public speak is incorrect.
“State statute says the proponent who has the burden of proof should first present testimony and evidence to support his application,” she said. “Only after the proponent has all his information on the table, then opponents can then respond to the information as opponents speak. This procedure is done in pursuit of the appearance of fairness. It has been found to be unfair for a proponent to speak last, after arguments are presented.”
Council Members opted to delay their conversation on the issue Monday, as the meeting hit the three- hour mark by the time that agenda item came up for discussion. Council President Jerry Moore asked that a special meeting be convened for Council Members to discuss the issue.
“I would ask this be the only item on the agenda so we can focus on this issue,” Moore said. “Nothing else should be on that agenda.”
“Well, situational items will obviously predicate what happens or doesn’t happen at that meeting, but we’ll certainly do our best to ensure that will be a meeting in and of itself,” Halverson said. “I certainly can’t tell you what will or won’t happen over the next 30 days.”