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October 22, 2019

9/28/2019 7:30:00 AM
City Council changes seating order
Dissenting alderman calls agenda item 'inane'

Heather Schaefer
Associate Editor

The Rhinelander Common Council addressed what its agenda referred to as a "special order of business" Monday evening when it designated where each member should be seated in the council chambers.

Approximately 15 minutes into the council's final scheduled meeting for the month of September the alderpersons got up and moved to different chairs.

The move followed a 4-2 vote, with two members absent, to formally change the council's seating chart.

Alderman Steve Sauer championed the change. He said the purpose was to ensure audience members know which alderperson represents which district.

"I requested this item be added to the agenda," he said. "I have spoken to many, many people since the attendance of these meetings has grown and nobody, well, 30 percent of people I speak to know who their representative is, 50 percent know which district they're in, maybe 60 percent, whether it's an election year or not. And I think that the seating chart has kind of devolved over many, many years, I must presume, because this is the way it was when I got here."

Sauer has been an alderman for seven years.

"A little bit of understanding as to whether or not their representative is speaking, who their representative is and potentially whether their representative is representing them is necessary and it's impossible to do if you don't know who's who," he added.

According to the resolution outlining the change, there is a political purpose as well.

"It has been suggested that by arranging the seats by odd and even City voting districts, it will be easier for the general public to identify which Districts will be seeking candidates in the next, and subsequent election cycle," the resolution states.

Alderman Lee Emmer wondered why an agenda item related to planning for the 2020 budget was removed from the evening's agenda and the seating chart resolution added.

He also indicated he would sit on the floor, if necessary.

"It seems like a really important item disappeared from this agenda and a really inane item appeared on it and I'm wondering why that is," Emmer said. "I can come in here and sit on the floor, I'm fine with that," he added.

No one answered Emmer's question as to why a revised council agenda released Sept. 20 included the seating arrangement resolution but not "Presentation/Discussion/Action on FY2020 Budget Preparation Calendar and Schedule" which was listed as No. 13 on the original agenda released Sept. 19.

Alderman Tom Kelly, who objected to receiving the seating chart resolution just hours before the meeting began, joined Emmer in voting against the change.

According to the resolution, the new City Council seating chart will be as follows

• Standing in the Council Chamber looking directly at the large mural on the northern wall of the room/building, the seating arrangements will be reorganized as such:

• District 1, 3, 5, 7, will be seated on the left side of the room, with District 1 being seated closest to the audience and then moving backwards sequentially by odd numbers, which is the group of Alderperson currently serving a term of office between 2016 - 2020.

• District 2, 4, 6, 8, will be seated on the right side of the room with District 2 being closest to the audience and then moving backwards sequentially by even numbers, which is the group of Alderperson currently serving a term of office between 2018 - 2022.

Historically, the city finance committee has taken the lead in preparing the annual budget. However, last December the common council voted to abolish all committees and commissions not required by state law or city ordinance, including the finance panel, and instead hold two common council meetings per month.

Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2019
Article comment by: Dan Butkus

Alderman Emmer seems to get it. Why is he the only one to realize that with so much going wrong with City Council, rearranging seating is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? A simpler solution would be to order $8 desk name plates with the Alderman's name and District number printed on them, instead of wasting time on a convoluted seating arrangement. Oh, yeah, no money since they blew it all on new office furniture for the City Administrator and hiring outside counsel. I think we can find the Council some construction paper, tape, crayons, glue, glitter, and blunt nosed safety scissors. Maybe they can make their own name plates. After words, there'll be cookies, milk, and nap time.

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