The start of a new era included the completion of one piece of 2019 business, as the Bloomington City Council rang in the new year Jan. 2.
The council’s special meeting included the swearing in of the four members elected less than two months prior, including Mayor Tim Busse, who is succeeding Gene Winstead. Following several annual procedural matters, the council acted on a matter dating back to August involving the former mayor and a disrupted city council meeting.
During the council’s Aug. 19 meeting, a group of family members and supporters of Isak Aden brought the meeting to a halt minutes after it began. After a recess of approximately two hours, the meeting was reconvened, with Winstead presiding over a series of questions and comments from Aden’s supporters.
Aden was shot and killed by police officers July 2 during a multi-hour standoff in Eagan. Four of the five officers involved in the shooting were members of the Bloomington Police Department. Demanding access to police records and other information that had been requested following the shooting, Aden’s supporters attempted to dictate who would answer their questions, shouting profanities at Winstead repeatedly in their quest for answers. Winstead responded by asking for decorum in his attempts to guide the meeting and allow Aden’s supporters to speak.
A week after the meeting, Winstead distributed a memo to the council, requesting consideration of censure for him. Winstead’s memo alleged that his allowing Aden’s supporters to speak resulted in disruption and loss of decorum in the conduct of the meeting. A Rules Committee, chaired by Councilmember Patrick Martin, was formed Sept. 9 to review the matter.
The committee conducted a censure hearing on Dec. 17 to review the charges. At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee unanimously determined that no action was required. The council confirmed the recommendation with a 7-0 vote last week.
Although no censure was issued, the discussion highlighted considerations the council should examine to handle such incidents in the future, Martin said.
During an interview in December, Winstead said that he proposed censuring himself to accomplish just that, ensuring that should a similar incident occur in the future, the council would conduct the meeting with the proper decorum. He didn’t propose shutting down meetings to prevent groups from being heard but suggested that there should be a procedure that stretches the rules of decorum to allow for groups to speak within the structure of a council meeting.
“We’ve got to keep it formal,” he said. Winstead said that while he did not feel threatened during the meeting, members of the audience who were in attendance for scheduled agenda items did feel threatened, he noted.
The censure vote was the final agenda item of the meeting, which began with the swearing in of the council’s new mayor and three council members. Dwayne Lowman and Shawn Nelson were re-elected, while Jenna Carter was elected to fill Busse’s at-large seat.
Following the oaths of office, Busse spoke about the responsibility of being the city’s 13th mayor.
The trust and faith voters placed in him is humbling, he said.
“My work will be a reflection of that trust and faith that you’ve placed in me,” Busse said.
Noting that some people think the job of mayor can be simple, Busse somewhat concurred. “Being mayor is a big responsibility. But I can honestly say it’s not necessarily overwhelming and intimidating.”
He called back to the beginning of his council tenure about eight years earlier, when a colleague pulled him aside and shared words of wisdom. “Just don’t screw it up.”
Busse cited may reasons why Bloomington is a great city, starting with its informed and active residents “who insist and have insisted for a generation on good government in the city of Bloomington.”
He also praised the staff and those who serve the city in other ways, from school board members to the city’s business community and elected state officials. “We all work together to get things done,” he said.
City government is a team sport, and every council member who preceded him has had a strong team supporting him or her, he noted.
Busse said the council would talk about policy initiatives during its Jan. 6 meeting.
“It’s going to be an interesting, and it’s going to be a fun, couple of years.” He encouraged all residents to be involved in city matters in some way. “I would like everyone to be thoughtful, to be informed, to be positive and to be civil,” he added. “There’s no limit to what we can get done.”
Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.